Three winter jackets for three dollars – total. You can’t beat that deal, and it’s one of many stories the Bargain Bin ladies are telling me this Monday morning. Just like the last time I walked down the stairs to the Bargain Bin – the United Church’s thrift store that operates on 4th St. downtown – there were friendly greetings when I walked into the United Church this morning. The Bargain Bin committee – Janet Drinnan, Jean Haugland, Myra Brackstone, Pirjo Pike, Marjory Gove and Pat Boden – had invited me. It’s been 25 years that the Bin has been in Peachland, and they want to thank the community with as COVID-friendly a celebration as they can.
“When people come in, the Bargain Bin will be decorated,” says Jean of their plans for February 9-12.
“We’ll have takeaway coffee and muffins (takeaway, because COVID) and there will be a draw.”
“And some sales,” adds Myra.
That’s how the Bargain Bin got its name, after all. Back on opening day, January 30, 1997, items for sale were put into bins and arranged in the Church hall. The minister’s wife saw the bins, noted the bargains, and there you go.
“We try to keep the quality up as high as we can,” says Myra, who is going into her third year as a Bargain Bin volunteer.
And as is the case with the luckiest of thrift stores, sometimes, literal gems are discovered.
“On one occasion, a beautiful suit had come in,” says Jean.
“And as the ladies were checking it, they realized the jacket was really heavy. And pinned all along the inside the sleeve were gold necklaces and things.”
This is such a small town thing – but a volunteer working that day recognized the suit, contacted the owner, asked the right question and got an answer that confirmed the owner of the valuable jewelry – and it was returned right away.
Jean says she and fellow volunteer Chris Scowen do most of the Bargain Bin’s investigations. One of the best parts, agree the ladies, is going through the donations, wondering what treasures could be had.
“I do the china and the silver and the crystal,” says Jean. But Chris, he does the rest of the treasures and the collectables. He’s who I go to if there’s something that I’ve investigated online and I’m stumped by its worth.”
Often, it’s the things that aren’t worth much that are seen as most valuable. Ask local historian Richard Smith – Marjory mentions him right away when I ask if they have any regulars who come in.
“I find lots of good things at the Bargain Bin,” Richard confirms in an email, going on to mention a down-filled winter coat he found for $5, a gold Bulova watch, original signed artwork…
“It’s always fun to visit,” he writes, reminding me the Bargain Bin went through a complete renovation after the basement was flooded (along with a big portion of Beach Ave) back in 2017.
Yes, the flood was a big challenge, says Janet, who is head of the Bargain Bin committee and was joining our conversation on speakerphone.
“We were quite proud of the fact we never actually shut down,” she says.
Instead, all the clothing was immediately moved back to the hall and placed on tables, just like how things were set up back in 1997. And a core group of people found a way to get rid of the bigger items.
“We ran a minimum of 13 garage sales, like every Saturday we had a garage sale and we called it the Saturday morning Garage Sale Crew,” says Janet.
“We’d come down and have coffee and muffins and laugh and sell things. We got the big stuff out, and we also made it fun.”
That sense of fun – whether it’s finding a bargain to take home, or discovering a super-interesting donation in a garbage bag (from rare glassware to believe it or not, five leather n’ lace bustiers that sold right away!) – is why the Bin’s volunteers are around 40-people strong. They could always use more help, though.
Pirjo Pike is one of the ‘newer’ volunteers – she’s been around for about a year and a half. After 50 years working at a bank, she was ready for something different.
“And thanks to Jean getting me involved in doing displays, I discovered I have a skill I didn’t know I had.”
It’s actually become one of the best parts of visiting the Bargain Bin, says Myra.
“Now we’re able to have somebody who merchandises the stuff, and it just leaves our shelves.”
Pat Boden says that’s what she likes best about her time helping out at the Bargain Bin.
“What makes it so special is that we all bring our talents and come together.”
The ladies say that thanks to a major, collective closet cleaning out many people have undertaken since the pandemic, business is booming at the Bin, which is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Donations are welcome during that time, or you can carefully place your items in the donation box between the church and the storage building (AKA the second Bargain Bin showroom). The ladies (and gentlemen!) sort through all items, and anything that can’t be sold goes to the appropriate place – from the Restore, Salvation Army and women’s shelters, to metal recyclers and wedding dress consignment stores. The Bargain Bin volunteers are so thorough, they won the District of Peachland’s 2021 Green Award for positive environmental action. Proceeds from the Bin go towards back to the community, via the church.
It costs the Bin money to get rid of junk, say the ladies – so please, donate things you think other people would enjoy.
Before I knew it, I had about 50 minutes on my voice recorder. I thank them for inviting me, and left with a really, really good chocolate chip muffin that I just finished now with a coffee. Yes, same conclusion as when I wrote about the Bargain Bin ladies last time. They’re the best!
Here’s another Bargain Bin story I wrote back in 2020: Meet the Bargain Bin ladies!
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