Clandestine Mecca (Hear Ye Thrifters!)
Tola Brennan

I know you’ve been to a thrift store sometime, somewhere. Some of you may be thrifters (you know, really serious thrift store
shoppers). A few of you may be acquainted with that strange creature called thrifter’s madness (you know, like those crazy
shopping sprees teenage girls are commonly accused of going on). Under the bleary eyed exhausting spell of the madness, the
objective is not to spend as much money as possible, but to make many nifty finds with single digit price tags.
Anyway, not many thrift stores induce this oft sought after madness (perhaps a really big
Salvation Army, a Goodwill, some
nameless local thrift shop, certainly not those high end thrift stores popping up in the
East Village with hundred dollar jackets
that you know the owner must have raided from some where else for a tenth of the price). It’s a rare and fortunate thing.
Now, we all must have dreams about the perfect thrift store. I probably have. I’ve forgotten them. I assume the same goes for
you. However, the point of this extraneously long introduction is this: the perfect thrift store exists, in Canada.
It manifests as something between a high end thrift store and a low end department store. It is always gigantic, and sometimes
block sized. And quite reassuringly, everything in their store is actually arranged by size and sort. Everything is where it should
be. You can find things. Half the job of filtering through piles of clothing has been done by the store already, so the buyer has
the role of, say, fishing at one of those fish farms where you pay a flat rate and all the fish are splashing around in a pool so
you always catch something, instead of on a weedy backwater lake. Okay. Bad analogy. You get my point. They have good
It’s called
Value Village in Canada, Village des Valuers in Quebec. Value Village buys clothes and household items wholesale
from various affiliated non-profits, sells whatever is suitable and donates the remainder (which consists of about half of their
purchases) to developing countries. They also donate $117 million annually to charities, so says the infallible Wikipedia. Value
Village (called Savers Inc. In the U.S.) remains rather elusive in New York as well as the East Coast (they have one location in
Long Island, I recently discovered). However, in Ontario, Quebec, and even Newfoundland, they bloom with sublime grandeur.
I embarked on a cross country spree, starting in Toronto (the point of discovery), on to Ottawa, and concluded in Montreal. I
now have a whole new wardrobe on which I probably spent about $150. Each Value Village I arrived at was progressively
more massive until I arrived at the mecca of Value Villages in Montreal, which covered an entire block. I entered bleary eyed
and delirious to be greeted with a selection so colorful and varied, I was quite astounded. I left with a quest fulfilled and an
exhausted sort of euphoria. Then, I returned to the convivial (yes, sarcasm) home country.
The New York Optimist
February 2009