16 January 2010

Where have all the junk stores gone?

(long time passing.... sorry, got distracted there)


As the child of two pack-rats, I inherited their habit of never passing up a yard sale or second-hand store. My favourite stores were always the ones where you never quite knew what you might find and where the hunt was part of the fun: rummaging through bins and baskets; lifting up one piece of junk to reveal whatever was hiding underneath; finding the perfect teacup and then finding the matching saucer three shelves over. Sometimes you left with a treasure, more often with nothing more than the thrill of participating in urban archeology, building stories for "who owned this stuff?" as you go.

In more recent years, the thrift store circuit has become more popular. It may have started with hipsters but now, "in these difficult economic times" (ACK!), I'm hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't at least wandered through the aisles of a thrift/second-hand store or pawn shop, etc.

Over the same time, thrift stores started getting picky about what they would accept -- for example, I don't think there is a single store in Victoria that will accept used sofa beds, even in pristine condition, despite the fact that there are many people who would be happy to have a spare bed. (Hence the rise in Freecycle and postings on UsedVictoria and Craigslist for free items.) The stores also started to de-clutter, adding better retail shelving and displays, putting aside the "good stuff" in an area close to the service desk, and ditching the bins-of-bits sorting method.

The most recent example of this is Re-Store here in Victoria. Re-Store is a second-hand store that focuses on the home-renovation market and supports Habitat for Humanity. When it opened, I was in heaven -- aisle after aisle of hard to find hardware; replacement doors, windows, cabinets and lighting from every imaginable era; all manner of funky plumbing fixtures; flooring; and a huge supply of paint. Last year, they closed up the Douglas Street location and moved out to a warehouse in Langford. Today was the first time we had a chance to investigate the new location and I was very, very disappointed.

I got a little worried when I read all the things they are "not currently accepting" but I thought perhaps they just had too many of those items. However, instead of overflowing we found the shelves to be well organized, the aisles wide, and the selection.... thin. Sure, if you were looking for cabinet doors, bathroom sinks, or paint you would be in luck. But, where the old location had shelf after shelf of used lighting fixtures, there was a pallet loaded with what looked like contractor returns. Where before there was a wall full of bathroom fixtures (faucets, towel racks, even bins full of washers and those chains that hold plugs) the new location had one small area on one shelf dedicated to the same items. Even the one thing we most wanted to grab, a mid-size single pane window (to build a seed-starting greenhouse) was nowhere to be found because they only accept and sell double-pane windows now.

Needless to say, we left empty-handed.

The photo at the top was taken last October at a junk shop in Sooke. That place had all the junk you could ever want to find -- from huge satellite dishes to 1980s era microwaves to a mountain of Coleman camping stoves to bins full of every size wrench ever made. Stuff was packed floor to ceiling in a huge warehouse with more stuff out back. It was amazing and maybe that's where we will have to go to get the junk we need.


Anne said...

Kind of sad, when thrifting hits the big time and thinks it has to look "nice."


My town has three thrift stores now (I've not checked out the newest yet), but no true junk stores. I know of one, but it's probably 30+ miles from here.

ltmurnau said...

I love junk stores. If we're going to be serious about this collapse-of-civilization thing, we're going to need all the junk stores we can. Right now it does not make sense to many people, when repairing a broken lawn mower costs more than buying a new cheaply made one from China, but that supply of junk-in-waiting could dry up very quickly.

I love thrift stores too. It was sad that Value Village more or less drove the thrift stores like Goodwill out of business.