(Republished with permission from the diocese of Fredericton eNews.)
There is no civic number on the door, but the best guess is that Treasures Charity Shop is located at 46 Front Street on Gagetown’s waterfront. Its neighbours are a gallery on one side, and a pub called The Old Boot on the other.
The historic, double-fronted building once housed two sisters, one on each side. It has been a craft store and a taxidermist’s shop. But for the past five years, it’s been home to an eclectic mix of items, donated by residents and for sale to residents — and visitors.
This authentic, old-school, cash-only shop, selling clothing, jewellery, household goods, toys, books and odds and ends, was born out of necessity.
“We needed some funds for the hall,” said Dona King, one of three women in the Parish of Gagetown who came up with the idea of a shop in a village that draws more than its share of tourists each summer.
“It really wasn’t a seriously thought-out strategy. We just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if…’” she said.
The parish hall at St. John’s needed painting. It got painted alright, and much more got done. The rug got cleaned, and they purchased new tables, chairs and a CD player. They planted flower bulbs, hosted a two-day retreat led by Bishop Bill Hockin, donated to the local school’s breakfast program and assisted with VBS.
By popular demand, they reopened the little shop for the following tourist season. And so it’s been since 2012, a fixture in the village.
“I think it’s a wonderful shop,” said resident Debbie Little, who says she pops in at least once a week. “We jokingly call it the Great Village Swap.”
Donated items don’t end up in the landfill, and people get bargain prices on things they want or need, she said.
“We all have each other’s stuff, and we think it’s hilarious!” she said.
“My friend said to me one day, ‘My, that’s a pretty blouse you’re wearing.’ I said, ‘Why, was it yours?’” said Dona.
Dona and the other 20 volunteers are constantly amazed at what comes into the store.
“People give us lovely things,” she said. “We’ve had pretty near everything. I don’t think we’ve had a chainsaw, but just about everything else!”
Because the Village of Gagetown is known as a centre for artisans, they avoid selling New Brunswick crafts, not wanting to be in competition with their neighbours.
Puzzles are a big seller for boaters who tie up at the nearby village wharf. And Treasures makes sure it has low priced toys for its youngest customers. What isn’t sold is found a new home.
Treasures surely fulfills the 5th Mark of Mission — To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth — and there’s a positive impact on the community with the store profits.
A board of seven people decides what to do with the proceeds.
“It’s informal,” said Dona. “Someone has an idea and mentions it. It’s yea or nay, but mostly yea.”
Some of those profits have been spent on 135th anniversary celebrations at St. John’s; the local Royal Canadian Legion; continuing support of the school breakfast program and the church’s VBS; the local recreation council, fire department and heritage board; and families at Christmas. They purchased nativity-themed Christmas books for children and gave them out at a village event.
They also provided the food for a community barbecue after an ecumenical service last summer, and recently donated $600 to an Anglican fundraising initiative for refugees in nearby Fredericton. And they hired a local craftsman to build a new communion table for St. John’s. Almost all of the profits remain in the village.
“One of the things we did last year was a ‘little library,’” said Dona.
They had a weather-proof box built, set it up in the village and stocked it with books, with the operating instructions of ‘take a book, leave a book.’
Sue McGibbon, along with Dona and Pat Stewart, is one of the original three.
“It’s been very successful, but then it got to be so much fun giving money to so many things,” she said.
That generosity also extends both to and from their customers. Sue recalls a mom and three boys looking at skates, priced at $3 a pair. Despite the boys’ pleas, the mother said she couldn’t afford it.
“It’s only $3,” Sue told the woman. “‘$3 each? she asked. No, $3 for the three.’”
“It’s a feel-good store,” said Sue.
Likewise, when Debbie found a good winter dog-walking coat, the price was more than flexible.
“Jackets are $5, so how about $8 for a winter coat?” asked Dona. “Make it $10,” was Debbie’s reply.
While Treasures began as an Anglican initiative, it’s gone far beyond, with both volunteers and grateful recipients from the entire village.
“I like to think of it as an outreach,” said Dona.
Treasures will be open on the weekend of Nov. 25 and 26 for the annual Christmas In The Village event. It’s a popular weekend that features festive activities and Christmas shopping. Village stores, including Treasures, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Treasures will be decorated for the holiday season and stocked with lots of festive items. They invite everyone to visit, and return again next summer.