Contrasts in Courtenay

Contrasts in Courtenay

Last week I wrote about the Black Creek MCC World Relief Fair and my fun in their Rummage Sale tent. The weather that weekend was crazy – torrential rain that turned into glorious sunshine – which lasted long enough for us to get some hiking in before the weekend was over.

293012_10151596071863810_2003232914_nBut Monday morning arrived with more rain and still a whole day to enjoy in the area. So what better thing to do than check out the area thrift shops? No better thing, I say! So off I went.

The thing to remember when you’re thrifting in an area where you’re unfamiliar is to call ahead. Many charity thrift shops are closed on Mondays, giving their volunteers a break. This was true for two shops on my list but happily, two others were open and they provided me with a rich experience for totally opposite reasons.

Community Thrift – 971 Cumberland Rd, Courtenay (no website available)

community thrift store

This was one of the strangest shops I’ve ever been in in terms of layout and set-up. This is the ideal place for those who have a deep need to hunt for treasure because they make you hunt!

The entrance to the shop itself is in an area that has an overhang, as you can see in the photo. That overhang was not a receiving area as I first suspected but also a sales area. There were boxes and boxes of LPs, unsorted items, shelves with questionable electronics, Tupperware and Rubbermaid stuff, some framed artwork, one rack with children’s clothing, sports equipment and tools. All of this stuff was randomly laid out and in some areas you had to climb over boxes to get to another area.

Inside was much different and still oddly laid out. Most shops put their clothing front and centre because that’s what the majority of shoppers are looking for. Not this shop, in fact, I didn’t realize that they had clothing until I wandered through more shelves of CDs, household goods and a few books into what I thought was the back of shop. Suddenly it opened up to a whole other room with rows more books, nicely sorted on shelves and racks and racks of clothing also nicely sorted.  It was such a surprise because the building itself is so deceiving – I wouldn’t have thought they even had this much space.

The Community Thrift is privately owned but apparently they also support local charities (although the salesclerk who helped me couldn’t articulate specifically which or what kind of charities) and send unsold items overseas. Their staff were friendly and seemed to have a rapore with regular customers. In terms of pricing, it was middle of the road: books and magazines were cheap, clothing was bordering on a little expensive ($3.99 for skirts or shorts, $4.99 for jeans, etc.) They had a great selection of goods and a really good variety. Having said all that, I tried a bunch of clothing on but didn’t love any of it so it went back on the racks.

book dave in libya

I did score on these items though: a vintage book for my brother-in-law whose name is Dave Dawson, so I’m sending this to him for his birthday.

scotland mags

I also picked up 3 Scotland magazines. I’ve never heard of these magazines but they are brand new (2012 and 2013) and since John and I are planning a trip back next year, these will come in very handy.

too good to be threwToo Good to be Threw Thrift Shop – 367 6th Street

In complete contrast, this shop, with its attempt at a clever title, is a beautifully laid out shop. It’s bright and cheerful, clean and orderly and beautifully laid out. If you didn’t know it, you’d think you were in a standard retail store. Their volunteers were friendly and helpful. Prices were very reasonable ($2 for t shirts, $4 for jeans) and I found some great deals.


I found these fun plaid Cracked Wheat shorts, with the store tags still attached and a pair of MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) shorts that are a little short for me but I know my sister will love.

caprisI also wanted a pair of jean capris and found this pair just waiting for me.

brown floral votive holder and candles

Their household section had a few treasures for me too – I found a few votive candles and this lovely glass holder, which will look great in my bathroom.

ikea unity candlesMy big score for the afternoon was this set of Ikea candle holders. I have been looking for these in thrift shops for several years. I used to work for my church as their music coordinator and during that time I attended a weekend worship workshop where we used these candle holders as part of a litany focused on unity-in-diversity. The candle holders are individual but hook together to form a chain and I love the symbolism of celebrating one’s individual gifts in harmony with others and their individual gifts. I’m hoping to be able to use these in some sort of worship context at my church or at work. Ikea sells these in a 12-pack for $12, I got 10 of these with 11 tealites for $4. SCORE!

Too Good to be Threw supports the Comox Valley Transition Society. They had tons of information about their work right at the cash desk, including this beautiful pledge for the Peace Begins at Home campaign.

peace begins at homeI really like it when a thrift shop puts its charity front and centre so that you are reminded that your purchase doesn’t only benefit you, it benefits others.

So do you actually have a preference in terms of thrift shop style? Do you like a nicely laid-out-looks-like-a-retail-store shop or do you love the hunt for treasures in boxes, nooks and crannies?


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2 Responses to Contrasts in Courtenay

  1. Stephanie says:

    I totally agree with you about these two thrift stores. We visited there this past week and Too Good to be Thre was the cleanest most orderly thrift store I have ever been in. The staff were very friendly and helpful and the prices were great. It also seemed as though the clothes and items had been cleaned before putting them on the shelves. There wasn’t that ‘stale’ smell that you get in most thrift stores like SA or VV. I wish I lived in Courtenay I would be in the store every day!

    • yes, i also wondered if they launder their donations; everything i bought was so clean. Courtenay is a lovely place to be, that’s for sure – even beyond the great thrift shopping!

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