ST. GEORGE – Last summer, the St. George & Area Food Bank and the Eastern Charlotte Association for Community Living partnered up once again to open Repeat Boutique, a thrift store that was located in Blacks Harbour. One year later, the store is seeing success, and has moved to a new location in the St. George Mall, where both organizations hope it will attract even more customers. On Saturday, July 10, Repeat Boutique celebrated its grand opening at the St. George Mall, with a ribbon cutting, speeches from Southwest NB MP John Williamson and others, a cake cutting, and of course, a big sale.
The two organizations have always been partners, and after discussing their biggest issues, they found a way to work together to deal with those issues. Two of the biggest issues were finding employment for adults in the community who have intellectual disabilities and finding a way to use items that have been donated to the food bank, such as clothing and household items. The result was Repeat Boutique, and after a year in business, both organizations are proud to say the initiative has been a success.
Rosie Sperling Funk, executive director at the Community Living Center in St. George, said the community response to Repeat Boutique has been “really great”, and that the store was appreciated by the community in Blacks Harbour. It was decided that in order to see even more customers, they needed to move to a more central location, and the St. George Mall was chosen as the new location.
“People really appreciated it in Blacks, but maybe not many people even knew that it was there. I think it will just gain in popularity in St. George. It’s sad that it’s not in Blacks anymore. It was a great addition to that community,” said Sperling Funk.
The St. George & Area Food Bank has always given donated items to those who are in need, and this hasn’t changed. While the store does sell a lot of the items that are donated to the food bank, many items, including clothing and household items, are still given to clients who need them. But, they receive so many donations that their rooms were overflowing with items, so it was decided that the best way to make sure these items saw new life was to sell them at Repeat Boutique.
Sarah Norman, executive director of the St. George & Area Food Bank, said they had to make the move because the business has been growing quickly, and they simply outgrew the space they were in.
“We’ve been growing as a business, and unfortunately didn’t have any more space to grow,” said Norman. “We’d kind of been looking for a suitable location. We had actually really hoped to stay in Blacks Harbour, but we couldn’t find a place that was suitable for our needs. So, we expanded our search a little bit more and this property here in St. George just really felt pretty perfect. We’re located now at 129 Brunswick Street in St. George, it’s the lower level of the St. George Mall.”
Norman said it is no surprise how supportive the community has been for the thrift store. In just one year, the operation has grown and expanded, and she said people are “really into this whole idea of supporting people with disabilities and giving them on-the-job training”, as well as helping to keep quality items out of landfills. The store is not quite at the stage where it is seeing a profit, but Norman feels that they are “getting pretty close”.
“Business has been good,” said Norman. “As a social enterprise, actually any small business really, it generally takes a year or two before you can say things are rolling along well and making a bit of a profit. We’re not quite there yet, but I think we’re getting pretty close. The amazing thing is how supportive the community is, not only on the donating products side, but also on supporting our entire goals that we have for the organization.”
Norman said there are so many items available for sale at the thrift store, and she herself struggles with not spending any money every time she goes to see if the staff needs anything. She always finds something new and interesting, and said there is bound to be something for everyone in the store.
Norman would like to thank the community for its support over the past year, and looks forward to continued support. She said Repeat Boutique could never have happened without this community support.
“I’m hoping to see that they continue to support us in our new location,” said Norman. “To encourage the idea of social enterprise, how important that is in a small community. If it weren’t for the partnership between the Eastern Charlotte Association for Community Living and the food bank, this entire project just never would have been able to come to fruition. It really took both partners and a lot of work to get this off the ground. I think the results are going to be very good in the long-term for the community.”