SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: Unique Surrey thrift boutique on the move

SURREY — If you’re going to compare Sisters Thrift Boutique to other second-hand shops, it shouldn’t be with the likes of Value Village.

Think consignment-level attire with thrift-store pricing.

They even showcase their selection online and have created an app so customers can browse high-end products.

A Guess purse for less than $20. Le Chateau dresses for the same. A Lululemon hoodie for $18.99. These are just a sampling of items currently posted through their app.

Throw in the fact that it helps keep afloat a Surrey charity working to help Surrey’s homeless and you’ve got something pretty unique.

The social enterprise, a division of NightShift Street Ministries, made the move from Whalley to Guildford over the August long weekend to free up much-needed space in the ministry’s King George Boulevard headquarters. In that space, the organization is now expanding its counselling services, office space and is creating a daytime training area.

The thrift store operation first came to be eight years ago after NightShift became overwhelmed with donations, a lot of which was business attire and high-end labels.

Not wanting to give expensive, brand-name clothing to their “street friends” out of concern they would sell them for drugs, the thrift store sprung to life.

But the first iteration was a “down and dirty” second-hand shop, said manager Angie Paulson.

When they moved into the King George Boulevard location the higher-end concept was born.

“We just wanted to be something different. Really we felt that thrift stores don’t need to be holes in the wall and smelly,” she said. “I thought I could take a smaller space and generate the same amount of revenue. So instead of selling ten of those for $2 a piece, I can sell one for $20, just by making sure we have the right product.”

sisters thrift boutique

And the concept works, resulting in the recent move to Guildford.

Donations fill the store, but if she’s running low on stock, she’ll hit up consignment stores.

She has several local shops that donate items they can’t sell.

And this September, Paulson plans to open a “VIP room” in the back of the Guildford store for their particularly high-end products.

Essentially, it would be a store within a store, complete with a personal shopper.

It’s something she’s dreamed of, but didn’t have space for back in Whalley.

For Paulson, the move to Guildford is bittersweet.

“I had a lot more interactions with the street folk (in the Whalley location),” she explained. “I worked with a lot of the girls. I hope they’ll come up here. Most of them have bikes – how they get them I don’t know, but they have wheels. So I’ve told them where I am and to come see me if they’re in need. So that’s hard. You get attached to a lot of the people down there.”

But the new Guildford location is ideal to grow her vision, she continued.

“I’ve always had a desire to be somewhere where people are destination shopping and I can go into competition with the malls and the actual retail stores,” she said.

“Come and buy that $200 dress here for $20.”

And so far so good.

High foot traffic and high-density housing means a lot more exposure for the store in their new locale.  

“I think it’s only going to get better for us,” she said. “As Sisters strengthens, so too does NightShift because we’re just feeding more money to them to operate and grow their programs. In a perfect world, NightShift would not need donations our social enterprises one day will be able to float us. And that’s the goal. It’s a long way away, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

The Guildford store is located at 14888 104th Ave. Visit them online at SistersThriftBoutique.com.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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