Sisters Thrift Boutique manager Angie Paulson arranges clothing in the shop, ahead of its closure at the end of February. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Surrey thrift store that helps homeless is closing

Sisters Thrift Boutique to close after 10 years as social enterprise for Surrey’s NightShift Street Ministries

After nearly a decade, NightShift Street Ministries’ thrift shop will close its doors at the end of February.

It’s a sign of the times: Though rental and operational costs for storefronts rise, revenues from second-hand clothing do not.

“We took a chance coming up to Guildford to try and reinvent ourselves in a better retail location but the rental market, you know, rents are high,” said Angie Paulson, who has run Sisters Thrift Boutique for NightShift for nine of the 10 years it’s been operational.

homelessphoto

Sisters Thrift Boutique Manager Angie Paulson. (Photo: Amy Reid)

“With no true marketing as a non-profit — as a non-profit, marketing is off the table — we just haven’t been as successful as we would’ve hoped to have been,” she added.

The charity had hoped high foot traffic and high-density housing in the Guildford location, at 14888 104th Avenue, would mean more exposure.

“The current climate has just made it not the right time for us,” said Paulson. “We have to be diligent and we certainly don’t want to be in a position of costing the ministry money, so it’s time. Time for a new change and a refocus for them.”

In an email to customers, Paulson said it is with “heavy hearts” the charity announces the local thrift destination will close.

NightShift Street Ministries now intends to focus “on its core vision of outreach, counselling and education in our community.”

The first iteration of the store was a “down and dirty” second-hand shop. It operated out of a building across from the Surrey Food Bank before moving to the charity’s home base.

But it made the move from Whalley to Guildford in 2015 to free up much-needed space in the ministry’s King George Boulevard headquarters.

homelessphoto

The current Guildford storefront.

See also: Unique thrift boutique on the move

See also: Stolen van not the birthday present Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries hoped for

It wasn’t your average thrift shop, with Paulson and others priding themselves on high-end items – think consignment-level attire, with thrift store pricing. They even showcased their selections online and created an app for customers to browse. Guess, Lululemon and other name brands often graced the hangers there.

“It was great,” said Paulson, reflecting back on her nine years running the shop. “It was such a community effort, it was great to be involved in the community and be a part of the community.

“You make lots of connections with people,” she added. “I’ve enjoyed it. We gave it our best shot. Now (NightShift) is going to just focus on what they’re here to do.”

The timing made sense for Paulson, who is looking forward to starting a new chapter in life. Paulson and her husband had plans to “move to the bush” this year, and with Sisters closing, the timing is right.

“Ten acres, with goats and chickens,” she smiled. “I may get bored or I may go back to work, but that’s not the plan…. Maybe I’ll go in and volunteer (at NightShift). Money won’t be an issue, but boredom will be an issue.”

The store is already winding down, with a “50 per cent off” message on the chalkboard behind the desk Paulson often mans.

A “month-long clearance extravaganza” is planned, she said, with many deals to be had.

As she prepares to depart and close the page on running the store, Paulson said the “motley crew” of people she’s met will stay with her the most.

“The diversity of people in our community,” she said. “There’s been a lot of hard work but my fondest memories are the parts that were no work at all and that’s just creating relationships. My volunteers, and there’s lots of people with special needs… I had a lady who struggles with multiple mental health issues and she came in yesterday with a plant from her and a doll from her mother, with tears in her eyes because she could come here and feel validated and loved. There was a lot of people it meant a lot to. I have another customer who comes in here and spends no less than four hours and just wanders. It’s a safe place.”

Paulson’s email has been flooded with kind words from customers since word spread of the plans to close.

“It feels good to know that you matter,” she said, laughing.

“It’s felt really good the last couple of days, just getting all of this love.

She thanked the community “for allowing Sisters to be part of their community for the time that we were.”

“There’s a lot of customers, you know, you become very fond of and will miss,” she added. “The community was the biggest part of it. We were never really about making huge amounts of money, we were always about having a purpose, and doing good and recycling clothing.”

homelessphoto

When Sisters closes, the charity’s donation clothing bins will come off the street as well, but donations will still be accepted at NightShift’s Whalley headquarters, located at 10635 King George Blvd.

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