A Small Wonder

When I first started blogging several years ago, I was motivated by other bloggers who make a living as re-sellers: people who find treasures at thrift shops and then resell them to those who don’t care to do the hunting but value the product. Turns out that wasn’t really for me; it really is a lot of work to make such a venture successful. Still, I admire those who do this. One of those I admire is my friend Mackenzie who recently launched her Etsy store, Small Wonder Shop.

Mackenzie (seen below) has always loved fashion and the way clothing says something about the person who wears it. That, combined with a love for period drama and a desire to create her own unique look, naturally drew her to seek out one-of-a-kind clothing in vintage and thrift shops.

Mackenzie models a lot of the clothing she sells in her shop.

“I wanted something that allowed me to express myself without being trendy,” she says.

Thrift shopping was the norm in her family and, like so many of us, she developed a love for the treasure hunt. As she’s gotten older and learned more about the fashion industry, thrift shopping has also become a matter of making ethical choices around consumerism, waste and the treatment of workers in the garment industry.

She also realized that she was good at thrift shopping and joked about the blessing/curse aspect of the ability to find great stuff but not wanting to be an over-consumer. She desired to turn her “weird knack” into something positive and earn a little money on the side. Her mother’s nickname for her is ‘small wonder’ and so, Small Wonder Shop was born.

her shop sells both clothing and accessories

One of the things that makes any reseller legit is their in-depth knowledge of their product. In preparation for starting her business, Mackenzie did quite a bit of research into what makes an article of clothing quality vintage. She discovered that it’s a combination of fact and intuition.

“Etsy has specific guidelines for what defines something as vintage. It has to be 20 years old or older,” she says. (Anyone else suddenly feeling vintage?) “I also learned that where and how something is made can determine its age.”

made in Canada!

Clothing with tags that tell you they’re made in Canada or the U.S. will almost automatically make it older since most clothing these days is made off shore. Seams are trimmed with pinking shears or sewn without a serger will tell you the clothing is likely hand-made.

the stitching around the zipper tells you the quality of the seamstress, as does the fact that the dress is fully lined

“The longer you do it, you develop a sense for whether or not a piece is vintage and if it will sell,” she says.

She is picky about her product and won’t buy it if it’s in poor condition. Clothing and accessories that she brings into her shop are carefully laundered (also tricky if the clothing comes without any tag identifying fabric used) and she uses a steamer as it is easier on clothing than a traditional iron. She keeps the clothing in a separate room to keep them clean.

Sometimes friends also model for her. This is Anna-Marie, Mackenzie’s sister-in-law, also a seamstress based in Winnipeg who owns Reclaim Mending

The most time-consuming part of her shop is the photography. At this point, she models most of the articles herself. That means taking the time to do her own hair and make-up and set up the room where she does her photography. Since she doesn’t own a lot of photography equipment, that means having to do it when natural light is available. Then she uploads to her Etsy site with descriptions and costs.

“Determining shipping costs is the hardest thing because of being in Canada,” she explains. “Shipping from Abbotsford to Vancouver is a lot cheaper than shipping to Winnipeg or Halifax. I had to do a lot of calculating to determine a flat rate.”

photographing an article of clothing gives you a chance to highlight its details, like the scalloped edge of this body suit’s neckline

One of the nicest things that Mackenzie does is pay attention to detail in the packing of her clothing. She folds the clothing neatly with a ribbon and attaches her business card/tag to it. She has collected stationery sets and hand writes a thank you note to each customer.

“This makes it more personal,” Mackenzie says. “When you’re buying vintage, you’re literally buying a one-of-a-kind item, so it’s more like sending a present to someone.”

For someone who is committed to thrift/vintage shopping and sharing the treasures found, reselling is a natural next step. Even so, it matters to me to purchase from a reseller who does their homework, understands both their product and the customer, and takes care to make the purchase experience a good one. Take some time to visit Mackenzie’s shop for yourself: Small Wonder Shop.

What about you? Is reselling something you’ve ever thought of doing? Have you bought items from a reseller you’d recommend?


Posted in clothing, resellers, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift websites, vintage | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Marketplace

The Marketplace by MCC CE is the latest venture from MCC BC. For the uninitiated, Mennonite organizations LOVE their acronyms: MCC CE is Mennonite Central Committee Community Enterprises. The BC is British Columbia. (The reality is that no matter how many letters they put after their name, everyone is going to call it The Marketplace, so why bother?) This is new territory for MCC because it is NOT A THRIFT SHOP. So don’t go in there expecting thrift prices. What it is, is a community enterprise and it is super cool.

The Marketplaces sells upcycled goods, products from local artisans (local meaning BC), some higher quality consignment clothing, and food products. It is not run by volunteers but by paid employees. They have a deli and bakery, so it’s a great place to go for lunch or afternoon tea and then shop for cool things.

The long-term goal is to also make this an employment training place where people can learn upcycyling, retail, food services skills.

The store is huge but beautifully laid out with large pergola-type structures that create “rooms” so that furniture pieces can be displayed to their best potential. Some of their products support women’s employment projects overseas. The consignment pieces are well curated and include jewelry, clothing and accessories.

My son has wanted a cast iron frying pan for ages and I had several to choose from here – he was thrilled when I brought this one home.

looks rustic, eh? ya, that’s actually my oven. don’t even try and talk about that to me.

there was another pan made in Canada but this one was in much better shape, so i went for quality over patriotism

I picked up these great, waterproof, Hush Puppies ankle boots (made in Canada!) for only $20.

i also like the paper bag packing materials that they use at the store.

The soles are in great shape and I’ve already walked home from work in them and they were very comfy.

fun fact: i didn’t notice the jewels in the watch face until i saw this photo.

I also picked up this Calinda watch for $10. These are always iffy purchases for me. I had to get a battery and had to have a couple of links removed so it would fit my wrist. That added an extra $25 to its value but I have been looking for something like this for ages with little success. It stopped working after two days but I took it back to the charming fellow at Quartz Jewelers (right across from London Drugs in the West Oaks Mall in Abbotsford), and he oiled the gears for me and it seems to be working again – fingers crossed!.

The Marketplace by MCC CE is located at 34377 Marshall Road in Abbotsford. They’re open 7 days a week and open late some nights so you can check them out after work or on weekends. Follow them on Facebook which is updated regularly with new goods coming in. If you’re looking for quality goods that support local artists, the environment (by upcycling) or are consigned, then the Marketplace offers great variety. Oh, and try their London Fog, it’s excellent!

What’s your favourite upcycled-goods-store?

Posted in consignment, food, MCC, repurposing, upcycling | Tagged , , ,

Saints and Salvation

The Ottawa River in January – stinkin’ cold by West Coast standards but so beautiful and clear!

My sisters-in-law love to thrift as much as I do so we always manage to take in a couple of thrift shops when we’re together in Ottawa and always score some gems.

St. Vincent. He just looks like a kind person, doesn’t he?

We visited the St. Vincent de Paul shop on Wellington Street. St. Vincent de Paul thrift shops are part of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which was founded in 1830 in Paris by Frederic Ozanam, a lawyer, author and professor at the Sorbonne, as a way to help the poor. The society took St. Vincent de Paul as its patron saint, known for his work with the poor, his compassion, generosity and humility. They have thrift shops in North America, Australia and New Zealand and do work in Europe as well.

great boutique section

I really like the layout of this shop. It has a real boutique feel to it with clothing that is well curated. They’ve got some amazing, high-end pieces – furs, designer labels, one-off custom-made pieces – offered at very reasonable prices.

if you have to wear fur, then second hand is the way to go.

They had a great selection of clothing, housewares and shoes. Not much furniture but what was there was quality vintage. My only complaint of the whole place was the lack of organization in the book department. As a book lover, I appreciate it when books are not only sorted by genre but also when they’re sorted alphabetically by author. Really, how hard is that?

I found this fantastic beret, fine wool, made in Italy. I’ve been looking for a black beret for a while now. I love the classic look of this hat and one of the bonuses that I had not appreciated until wearing this one while in Ottawa was that you can wear it for a long time and it doesn’t leave you with hat hair.

Also a great piece to travel with because it lies completely flat when you’re not wearing it – it’s easy to tuck in to a pocket or a bag without adding any bulk. This one cost me $9, which was a little on the pricey side but I think it’s because it was in their boutique section.

As our holiday to North Carolina and Ottawa came to a close, my hubby and I decided we needed another bag to help us get our treasures home.

who knew that Jeep made bags?

We visited one of the many Salvation Army thrift shops in Ottawa and found this fantastic gym bag made by Jeep.

Main body has lots of room, end pockets for smaller items, and daisy chain mesh on the front pocket to attach extras as needed. It was beautifully clean and almost like new – it cost us $4.99. Score! It really was nice to have the extra bag to bring things home in too.

What’s you favourite charity shop?


Posted in second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops, travel | Tagged , , , , ,

Ottawa Mission Thrift

This is my amazing sister-in-law Kim, who is a genius thrift shopper and also a fantastic volunteer – so great with people!

I had the privilege recently of volunteering with my sister-in-law, Kim, at the Mission Thrift Shop in Ottawa. I also realized something while I was here: this thrift shop is exactly the same as the one I just blogged about that is in Langley and what is now known as Mission Thrift Shop used to be called Bibles for Missions – they are rebranding! (A good idea, methinks. The former name could be misconstrued as being a place that sells Bibles for the purpose of funding missions, the new name is much more descriptive.)

blue tags on clearance!

I like this shop. It’s a nice size – neither too big nor too small (although much smaller than the one in Langley.) The sorting areas are well laid out and clearly marked and there’s a good work flow established. The shop itself is also well laid out and has a great selection of product.

nice, big fitting rooms with enough hooks to hang things on

The volunteers are friendly and cheerful. I got to take part in their devotional and prayer time and observed the way they seem to be a family – having volunteered at a thrift shop in the past, I can attest to how quickly this can happen and how lovely it is to be part of a supportive and friendly group of people.

great boutique section

My job for the day was to cull all the blue tagged clothing from throughout the shop and rehang them in the clearance area. It gave me a great opportunity to see what they carry. I noticed a really good selection of quality brands in the women’s section (Talbots, Land’s End, Cleo’s, Northern Reflections, American Eagle, for example.)

three, great quality shirts

Because I was traveling and had to be mindful of the fact that I also had to carry stuff home, I held back on the shopping but I still managed to pick up a few gems. I found these three quality tops (Talbots, Croft & Barrow, and Chaps) and each one is like new.

love it when i find things with the store tags still on them!

but my big find was this made-in -Australia, Woolerina merino wool vest, with the $148 store tag still on it.

it says “men’s” but it fits me perfectly.

They were asking $40 but Kim bought it with her volunteer discount – so I got everything for $40. I love merino wool – it’s thin and light weight, really warm, not itchy. This vest will be fantastic for traveling because it packs so thin.

We visited a few other shops in town – so check back to see what else I found! In the meantime, tell me what you think about the rebranding of Bibles for Missions into Mission Thrift Shops.

Posted in clothing, second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , ,

Mission Thrift Store in Langley

The Mission Thrift Store in Langley is on Logan Avenue in Langley, right across the street from Value Village

There’s some great thrifting in Langley, BC. I’ve blogged in the past about Penny Pinchers and Second Story Treasures. My last post was about my great find at evil Value Village in Langley. And now, I’ve recently discovered another gem: the Mission Thrift Store.

This is a large, beautifully laid out and artfully decorated shop. They’ve got someone with some true creative muscles (and a Pinterest account, clearly) doing the displays for this shop. Check out some of these details:

The shop has a great selection of clothing, a decent sized book section, and a large furniture section. Things are reasonably priced, volunteers are friendly and helpful.

I picked up two little gems while here.

I love the detail on this top – it’s not too Christmassy to wear all season long

This Northern Reflections seasonal-themed top was just two bucks. I look for Northern Reflections branded clothes in thrift shops because their older clothing is actually good quality.

lovely detail

I’ve noticed that they’ve gone to inferior fabrics for a lot of their new clothing – especially t-shirts/tops. If I can hold it up to the light and see through it, I’m not interested (I’m just so over that, you know? )

Love the cover art on these old novels.

I also found a Trixie Beldon book that I don’t yet own. I used to collect these as a child and have several of them but they’re harder to find than Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys. Trixie ignited a deep desire within me to own a horse; a problem for my parents, given that we lived in an apartment in Vancouver at the time. She also began a passion for mystery novels that has never died. I got this one for $2.

The Mission Thrift Store supports BFM Canada (which I assume stands for Bibles for Missions but none of their materials OR their websites actually spells this out. These people need me.) The mission supports Bible-based literacy programs and supports the persecuted church world-wide. They are active in 40 countries around the world.

This shop is worth your next trip to Langley. Are you aware of other great thrifting in this area? Let me know – I’m always on the hunt for a new thrifting experience!


Posted in books, christmas, clothing, second hand, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , , ,

Caught in a (Bare)Trap!

my faithful tall boots that really need replacing. they’re not leather, but they’re made in Canada, which is a bonus.

I’ve been looking for new-to-me winter boots for months now. I have a pair of well-loved boots that I got from my sister over 4 years ago. She got them at a thrift shop and had worn them for a while already, so who knows how old they really are.

I demand a lot from my boots. Because I walk home from work (about a half hour), I need my boots to be comfortable and to support my feet properly so I’m looking for boots with little or no heel and really good tread. I need them to be water-proof – I live on the We(s)t Coast, after all. And because I’m too lazy to pack extra shoes to wear at work, I need them to be fashionable too – something I can wear with a skirt or tights and not look like I’m about to climb a mountain.

I also need them to be inexpensive – not because I can’t afford $300 boots but because I just cannot imagine spending $300 on a pair of boots. In a way that’s a little weird because I know that you get what you pay for. I’ve learned, the hard way, that often inexpensive means cheap. And I’ve told myself that with something like boots, I would be making an investment. Just look at how long my sister and I have worn the boots that she found at a thrift shop. If I spent $300 on boots and wore them for 10 years, which I surely would, that would average out to $30 a year for boots. Not a lot of money when you think of it that way.


aren’t they pretty?

So a couple of weeks ago, my sister and I visited Evil Value Village in Langley. My faithful readers will know that I dis VV all the time but one thing that they have over most shops is sheer volume. Their stores are so huge that you’re almost always going to find what you’re looking for. But having visited the VV in Abbotsford numerous times over the last several months and not finding anything, I decided to try my luck at the Langley one. And wouldn’t you know it, I was successful!

Stay Dry System seems to be working so far and look at the great tread!

After trying on about a dozen boots, I found these Bare Trap leather short boots and I love them. They’re lined with faux fur, they have a great tread and they are one of the Bare Trap boots with their patented Stay Dry System (meaning they’re water proof). I like how they look with a skirt or tights and I’ve worn them with jeans or dress pants as well. They’re very warm and support my feet beautifully. They’ve even held up to the freezing rain and slush we’ve had for the last two days.

I looked up this style of boot on the Bare Trap website and they typically run $99 USD. I got these for $11.75 CDN. I know, right?

What have you been seeking for ages?



Posted in boots, second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Giving with Intention

Tis the season to be giving and so we are treated to articles in our newspapers about gift ideas or cool things that people are doing to make other people’s lives better at this time of year. And then, I came across this: the Vancouver Sun recently had an article that suggested that storing up gifts all year to give away may be cheapening the entire concept of giving gifts.

Well, I’ve been called cheap before but always in the nicest way. This just made me shake my head.

The article quotes Professor Judy Zaichkowsky (from SFU, my own alma mater no less) and Thyra Uth Thomsen (from Denmark) whose research into gift giving implies that if you are stocking items with no one in particular in mind, then you are somehow demeaning the spirit of gift-giving because your potential gift is not intended for someone specific.

People who “receive gifts which they suspect are from storage may perceive a lack of caring and even feel insulted,” they wrote.

My question is: why would they suspect that your gift is coming from a storage closet filled with gifts? What the research assumes is that I am not only purchasing thoughtlessly but I am giving thoughtlessly as well.

the classic screwdriver

So if I find a Philips Screwdriver on sale somewhere and think “this would make a great gift for a handy-man or someone who is moving into their first home” but do not have a specific person in mind, I’m somehow screwing the spirit of gift-giving. (see what I did there?)

That would be true if I gave that screwdriver to my mom for her 80th birthday. If I did that, she might correctly suspect that I gave absolutely no forethought to her birthday gift but just reached into the abyss of my Gift Stockpile Closet and grabbed the first thing I saw, wrapped it and gave it to her.

But if I give that screwdriver to, say, my son when he moves out on his own for the last time (see what I also did there?) as part of a starter toolbox – that would be a damn good gift. Buying it on sale, just means I saved money AND time.


Maybe I need to do my PhD on living a thrifted lifestyle. Or on the absence of common sense in the world. Or people who have too much time on their hands and manage to get paid to write nonsense (even if they do go to my alma mater and even if their writing partner lives in a happy place like Denmark.)

So how about you? Do you have a stash of gifts that you’ve purchased throughout the year just in case you need to give something to someone? Have you ever felt bad or insulted by a gift?

Posted in christmas, gifts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment