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Women’s Centre poised for growth

Re-Use-It philosophies foundation of new business plan



Say what you will about the dirty dance between Westerners and consumerism, but it’s not all bad — not all the time, anyway.

Whereas the conventional graveyard for our stuff is the nearest landfill, there’s long been an alternative: The thrift shop. Think Salvation Army and Value Village. Think Re-Use-It Centre and the forthcoming Re-Build-It Centre. Born from the concept of sustainability, these are the tombs from which stuff gains new life, and with new life come opportunities for positive social impact.

Pearl’s 2nds in Squamish is another of these second life venues. Just as the Re-Use-It Centre funnels proceeds into Whistler Community Services Society, so too is the revenue from Pearl’s 2nds pumped into programs put on by the Howe Sound Women’s Centre (HSWC). And in these times of precarious economics, Pearl’s has been selling overtime, with lineups several people deep.

“We’ve doubled our sales from last year,” says Lillian, an excitable volunteer who wants to keep her last name a secret. “It’s awesome.”

Indeed. You’d be forgiven if you thought the store is all about women and children, all about toys and stuff that moms like. Femininity is sort of implied in the name. And yet, a gent in a cowboy hat ambles around in search of new threads, while another man takes a pair of jeans to the counter. Asides from toys and strollers, there are movies, electronics, kitchenware, vinyl records, books and most whatever else you can think of.

This, says HSWC Executive Director Leslie Knight, is of significant importance. The centre is in the midst of an exercise in vision reinvigoration. It aims to be financially self-sufficient in the next few years, a posture it’ll use to accelerate and expand on programming reaching from Lions Bay to Andersen Lake.

“We’re taking the best business practices of the Re-Use-It Centre,” said Knight. “And also, we drove to the city and took a look at My Sister’s Closet (on Commercial Drive). We are really working hard to add value. It’s all volunteer-based. We have three women who are retired and come in with their husbands. And we’re actually thinking about opening a second store that sells quality furniture. We’d like a warehouse-type environment, like a mini Ikea.”

In addition to the Pearl’s, HSWC also rents out two rooms above its office on Third Street in Squamish. Combined with income from Pearl’s and fundraising, the new rooms go towards their $100,000 a year revenue goal. The office is new, was secured for them by Westmana after the developer took over their old home on Loggers Lane. A blessing in disguise, the new digs have helped push the centre’s assets to over $1 million.

Should the centre secure the foundation set out in its business plan, then it can hire top notch employees to help with immigrant outreach programming; the transition house in Squamish, which has stays running from two weeks to one month; and the safe house in Pemberton, which offers a five-day stay.

“So our next five year strategy is to work with developers and have them help us build second stage housing, which would be from one month to 18 months. We’d like to have 20 units.”

It’s a buzzword, and an annoying one at that, but sustainability does have meaning. It’s often thought of as a threefold concept: something economic, something social and something environmental. Like others in the corridor, Pearl’s is ticking each of those boxes.

“The proceeds we get from Pearl’s are going a long way toward building improvement and creating a fund for second stage housing,” says Knight.

Easter, it seems, has come a little early.