'Hay River's Walmart': Lessons to learn from a thriving thrift store in the North

While some thrift stores in the North are closing down, others are thriving.

Georgina's Place — a thrift store in Hay River, N.W.T. — is so busy, its parking lot is jam-packed when it's open.

"It's very busy. People jokingly refer to it as Hay River's Walmart," said Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew's Anglican Church.

The community's only thrift store is run by the church, and is now located on the church's property. It opened in the early 1960s with the goal of supporting the parish, and has been running successfully since, according to Delaplain.

The story's different for the Salvation Army thrift store in Whitehorse, which announced this month that it will permanently close in April because it was too expensive to operate. This comes after the closure of Whitehorse's "re-use store" last year, which closed for the same reason.

"A lot of stuff's being reused in the community," said Delaplain.

"In Hay River, we have kind of limited options as far as what's available in terms of shopping, so it does provide a resource to the community."

If it were to close down?

"Yeah it would definitely be missed," he said.

Thrifty business model

Georgina's Place is a "little, community-run thrift store," says Delaplain.

The store is open four days a week for only a few hours at a time.

"Everyone in town seems to know the hours, and everyone comes by when it's open."

It is run by volunteers who open and close the store. Delaplain said that only one individual who manages the store is paid. Everyone else is a volunteer; if they were to pay employees, the store wouldn't be able to operate.

"That's the only way it survives, is through volunteer hours."

The community is generous with its donations, says Delaplain. But as with any donations, there may be unwanted items.

"But again, our volunteers do a great job. They just sort through it all. We have a big dumpster and we dispose of what we need to," he said.

And the proceeds from the store supports the parish, but it's also used to contribute to local schools and various organizations that apply for funding to St. Andrew's — something that the church wouldn't be able to do without the successful thrift store, says Delaplain.

"So we also benefit and the community also benefits from the thrift store," he said.

Georgina's Place thrift shop was recently renamed after Rev. Georgina Bassett who was considered one of its "best volunteers." She died in 2012 after battling breast cancer.