Women from Ukraine tap into liquidation

Thunder Bay, Ont. — After more than 25 years of retail sales, the transitioning of Take A Hike + Take 2 Boutique to a digitally-driven online company continues to be a work in progress.

As part of the transition, owner Diana Petryna has been tasked with liquidating her stock in Thunder Bay and has found some creative ways to clear out the remainder of her women’s clothing line.

Petryna has set up a pop-up store at Intercity Shopping Centre, and is operating with discount prices from a spot next to the Body Shop from Feb. 9 to March 18. To help disperse the stock, she has invited women who have arrived from Ukraine to come in and pick out an outfit free of charge.

“Coming to the mall is an extreme measure but it’s been great. It reminds me of my old days in my store on Victoria Avenue when people were spending time, chatting and able to connect,” Petryna said. “I am really trying to make my final push to get our women’s clothing sold.”

Facing a loss with unsold inventory, Petryna followed an example by a local bridal salon that went out of business and donated some of their wedding gowns to Cuba.

“I thought, ‘what would I do with this unsold clothing?’” she said.

With International Women’s Day happening this week, Petryna knew exactly what to do.

“On Feb. 24, the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I created a social media post inviting the women from Ukraine, who’ve come to Thunder Bay to flee the war, to drop by our pop-up store and select an outfit at no cost,” she said.

“Women most often put their families first and being able to recognize them for their heroism is something we’d like to do here.”

Petryna said many of these Ukrainian women have worked hard and have left careers behind to escape the turbulence and come to Canada to start over.

“Clothing is important in terms of how it makes us feel and it gives us confidence on the job,” she said.

So far, 10 women have come in to choose an outfit. Petryna says the difficult part of the endeavour is actually finding the new arrivals from Ukraine. Statistics of arrivals are unavailable as well as contact information for privacy reasons.

“There’s probably about 100 people in Thunder Bay who’ve come from Ukraine, and I don’t really know how many women there are,” she said. “For the ones I’ve been able to reach, it’s been so interesting to meet them . . . for many of them, their English is amazing.”

Petryna says they come from a variety of different careers from mechanics and book keepers to flight attendants and architects.

“Until you see the person right before you and you meet them, you realize these are amazing people. They’re desperate for connections with us,” Petryna said. “I said to them, ‘you’ve left behind your network, and now that we’ve met, you’re part of my network,’ and they’re so appreciative. It’s like women helping women, we get it.”

Petryna speculates that some of these women have been here for a mere three weeks while others have been here for nine months.

Meanwhile, Petryna’s online store, which is a derivative of her Shop with Diane YouTube channel, is gaining recognition with a “global international shout-out from top retail specialists, the president of Harvard University has given it a thumbs up and it has won an innovation award.

She described the business experience as pulling together with “the nicest group of kind-hearted, intelligent, lovely, women” that she’s ever met.

“It’s a coming together place. We’re on a journey together,” she said.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal