Agassiz-Harrison Community Thrift Store is full of surprises, quality items, and what one might call adventures in an industry that has gained major traction over the years.
I first met Maria Tingey, current thrift shop manager, at The Observer for a face-to-face introduction a few weeks ago and to listen as she voiced serious concerns over a heated response to her managerial style on Facebook, one that she found to be untrue and hurtful.
In a day rampant with Facebook squabbles, the two of us theorized over the dark side of social media.
Recently I read an article in The New York Times that states we are living in a time of social ills due to the social medium platform that has been in existence for almost a decade and a half.
“It’s not about some sorcerer’s algorithm. It’s about a tribalism that has existed for as long as humankind has and is now rooted in the fertile soil of the Internet,” said Frank Bruni in an article from the New York Times.
According to Bruni, Facebook, has brought a sameness to the world, and perhaps inspired a pack mentality online, where individuals, especially those in high profile positions tend to be the target of personal attacks and defamation of character.
So, when, Maria invited me down for a day to experience her managerial style and to volunteer at her store, I accepted the invitation.
Being a newbie myself to the communities of Agassiz-Harrison, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to meet the community on a different level; simply as a volunteer, and perhaps as Maria’s guinea pig for the day.
Walking into the store, with a latte in hand, I was greeted by grinning faces, who promised to show me what rolling up my sleeves, and sorting with the best of them “means.”
Dropping my editor hat, I was advised to leave my belongings at the door, and get to work.
I started with rolling items and stuffing them into bags, as I was instructed to do by my fellow peers. The items were priced at four dollars, which was par for their special event that Friday.
One thing I noted was that many of the volunteers were seniors and that their skills were solid; this included a strong work ethic, and the eagerness to get the job done well.
The store boasts an impressive and clean layout, which is visually appealing, and easy to take in as well as to shop in.
Half the battle with vintage clothing stores is layout; if merchandise is visible, and sorted properly, sales tend to follow in comparison to stores that are too crammed, or have items shoved into small spaces.
The store is sectioned off and has multiple headings including: men, women, and children, household goods, furniture, books, music (Maria even has some Hungarian records), office supplies, a recycling department and other trinkets of all kinds (hidden treasures if you will).
An attractive looking pair of skies could also be noted, and seemed, to be winking from a corner with sporting goods.
Jean-Paul is a volunteer who works in the recycling department, a cheerful gentleman I was lucky enough to have coffee with and to talk to about life at the Thrift Store.
“I just recycle for them and I don’t charge nothing for the recycling. It keeps me occupied. They keep things out of the landfill. I also love coming here and getting hugs,” he said.
Shoppers come from far and wide to peruse items and to enjoy the thrift shopping experience.
“There’s a variety of everything — there’s usually pants that can fit me and stuff like that, and it’s interesting to see what they have. They also have free cookies” said longtime shopper Robert.
The shop is home to a plethora of burly men and women who do heavy lifting while moving furniture and other items in and out of the building.
Retired volunteer Wayne enjoys the camaraderie of the experience at the Thrift Store.
“I’ve been retired for a little while and this was something I found out about in regards to some of Community Services volunteer opportunities. It was something that intrigued me as a bit of a treasure hunter myself. It’s kind of a win-win situation,” he said.
Wayne used to work for the Yukon government in purchasing.
“I did that for twenty years, and I retired a little while ago. My wife and I retired down here from the Yukon, and volunteering was something we wanted to do when we retired to keep us busy.”
According to Wayne it’s important for seniors to stay active after retirement.
“There’s always people around here, and there’s always someone to talk to about what came in, what got left, there’s all kinds of conversation possibilities, with people more than happy to chat about stuff that goes on.”
Maria took me on a tour of the shop, and we found some treasures including a beautiful wooden office desk from Grand Rapids Michigan.
Maria is all about age-friendly practices and inclusivity with her set up and her outlook on life, and she runs her Store like a tight but relaxed ship, where everyone has a role to play and has fun doing it.
“My concern is with wheel chair accessibility in all departments as much as possible; structurally our housewares department is not accessible for wheel chairs because it’s really narrow, but the rest of the store is laid out so people can navigate safely with walkers,” she said.
On senior citizens as volunteers, Maria, is an advocate for the often underrepresented work force, a valuable and much needed asset that often goes unseen, or unacknowledged.
“They bring a lot more life experience. The majority of them have a good outlook on life. They’re more positive, and they’re not stuck in technology and stuff. “Most of them are very open-minded, happy and pleasant people who come to work here,” she said.
With that in mind Facebook snipers should be wary of throwing slings and arrows to managers like Maria, who’s only aim, is generating positivity in the community by running a successful Thrift Shop — no easy task by any measure.
Indeed, it seems, that Maria and the Thrift Store together are a venture of substance and one worth checking out.
To shop or for more information visit Maria and the gang at their location in Agassiz at 7086 Cheam Ave, or phone 604-796-2585.