One of our favourite things to do when visiting a new city is to check out the thrift stores. We are regularly rewarded with discovering new and upcoming neighbourhoods as thrift stores are often located in old grocery or larger retail stores in strip malls in communities on the edge of the city centre that are being repopulated by hippies, hipsters, yuppies and artists i.e. those who love thrifting.
Probably our most surprising location for a thrift store was in Hong Kong - don’t remember the name of the street, but we were barely out of our hotel and on the street to beginning flaneuring and there was a Salvation Army beaconing us in.
However, the best city for thrifting in our experience has to be Victoria, B.C., Canada. Brenda says it is because the city is a mecca for older people who are downsizing and university students who are always buying things and then moving away. We especially love the great artworks we find and think it is due to those who are downsizing, as well as art students at the University of Victoria who can keep everything that they create and retirees who take up art as a hobby in their later years.
We love thrifting in Victoria because there are so many stores within walking or short bus ride of downtown. We have also noted over the years the quality and presentation of goods is higher in Victoria than in other cities we have visited. Many of the thrift stores are more like boutiques than a second hand store, especially the WIN store (no relation to WINS in Calgary) in Cook Village.
The mother lode of thrift stores in Canada and perhaps North America has to be the Value Village in Victoria’s Chinatown. It is a huge store (not sure if it is the biggest Value Village in the chain but it is the biggest and busiest we have experienced) that is full of clothing, housewares, books, records and great art. It is always busy and thus the product moves fast so we often will visit a couple of times if we are in town for a week or so.
Art Collecting Fun
One of our goals when visiting a new city is to find a new artwork for our collection of thrift store art that now numbers 23 pieces. I am not sure but I think this may have started many years ago in Victoria - golf fish canvas from Value Village. On our last visit in the spring of 2015 the Value Village had a least a dozen abstract expressionism work both large and small for under $100. I was tempted to buy a large 40” by 30” piece but Brenda talked me out of it and so I finally settled on a small 10” by 8”piece.
Usually our first stop in Victoria is to Value Village to check out the art, followed by the Super Chance consignment store (with thrift store prices) in St. James Village, which is a must visit for thrifters as it always has a good selection of art. We are rarely disappointed. In one case I bought an artwork by Joe Plaskett, titled “Hakim Paris” in one thrift store and then commissioned Super Chance to sell it for me. My first quick flip!
Thrill of the Hunt
The fun thing about thrifting is the thrill of the hunt - you don’t even know what you are hunting for until you see it. Brenda’s tastes are much more eclectic than mine, she is could spend hours searching the back of every shelf and the bottom of every bin for that special treasure that some other picker has missed.
Brenda’s finds this last Victoria trip were:
- A 1950s dime holder made by the B&R (no relation) Manufacturing Co. of New York bought at WIN Resale Shop for $1.95
- A charming 1937 cardboard“learn to type” fingering diagram that you prop up in front of a typewriter keyboard, that is very fun. $2
- Children’s Metal Shoe Size Measurer for $4
- Set of 3 vintage nesting teak snack bowls circa 1940s for $3
- Framed unused Tuck’s Postcard (printed in England) for $.99 Vintage, women’s off-white, long Max Mayers gloves for $3
- Small, brand new, yellow Moleskin notebook $.99
- Some of the things she will keep for a while and add to her various vignettes in her office, others she will resell at her annual vintage garage sale.
List of Victoria Thrift stores:
- Beacon Community Thrift Shop, 715, Pandora Ave.
- Salvation Army Thrift Store, 525, Johnson St.
- Value Village, 1810 Store St.
- Women In Need, 785 Pandora Ave.
- St. Vincent de Paul, 833 Yates Ave
On the edge of Downtown
- Bible 4 Missions, 2520 Government Street
- Women In Need, 1803 Cook St.
- Super Chance, 435, Simcoe Street,
- Oak Bay United Church, 1355 Mitchell St
Bus Ride Away
- Salvation Army, 3934 Quadra
- Salvation Army, 1551 Cedar Hill Cross Road
- Pickers 3948 Quadra
- Beacon2723 Quadra
- Kilshaw's Auctioneers, 115 Fort Street
- LUNDS Auctioneer, 926 Fort Street
Thrifting is not only a fun way to find a unique souvenir of your visit to any city, but also a great way to find some hidden gem authentic communities to explore and not just the tarted up touristy places and spaces.
We have even found an upscale thrifty hotel (yes, there is such a thing). The Red Lion Hotel Victoria at 3366 Douglas St. is well located not only for thrifting, but for cycling as the Galloping Goose Trail is at the back door and shopping (Uptown and Mayfair shopping malls are just a few blocks away).
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