Area friperies currently facing exceptional challenges
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Hudson’s popular second-hand store known as ‘The Bunker’ is among the many in the region that have had to temporarily shut their doors to both donors and shoppers leading to a drop in the amount of funds they typically funnel to area charities and food banks.
The novel coronavirus has forced some retailers to adapt to an online transaction model but for small friperies and second-hand shops in the region, going online is not a realistic option. And with rent and utility expenses still requiring payment on the brick-and-mortar structures, resuming normal operations without a consistent stream of customer revenue is posing significant challenges to the organizers.
“Everything has basically come to a full stop,” said Janet Ellerbeck who founded and coordinates the two Nova boutiques in Hudson which resell donated items with all funds raised being distributed to Nova Hudson to cover operating expenses for the Nova nurses, formerly known as the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). The team of registered nurses have been providing personal, quality health care and support to patients and families in the area since 1956.
With a clothing boutique and a home décor and furnishing outlet both located on Main Road, the volunteer-run organization is no longer accepting donations. Ellerbeck said the summer line of clothing has been sorted and is currently being stored at the MediCentre ready for sale. She's also been fielding many calls from people willing to donate furniture as moving season has begun. But even with the provincial government allowing the reopening of some businesses next Monday, May 25, many of the Nova volunteers are over the age of 70 and are hesitant to return to the boutiques.
“I have hand sanitizer in place and wipes,” said Ellerbeck, “but no one to work.”
Ellerbeck is musing the possibility of opening only two days a week or having some outdoor displays in the summer season so customers feel more secure but nothing is finalized yet.
“Until Dr. Poole, our Nova doctor and Judy Tellier, our head nurse tell us it's safe, we won't reopen.”
Hudson's War Memorial Library Shop, also known as 'The Bunker' was forced to stop accepting donations back in mid-March.
“We simply didn't have the room,” said Donna Atwood and Fay Louch of the Library Shop operating committee.
For some time after they closed, Atwood said donations were still being left in the drop-off room which were sent on to another charity. After posting notices outside the shop, gradually people stopped leaving donations. “We imagine there are things waiting for us in garages and basements when we reopen,” she added.
Hearing of extra demand at food banks, the operating committee made donations to Le Pont/Bridging, Centre d’action bénévole L'Actuel and also to La Passerelle women's shelter who are experiencing increased demand for their services. Proceeds from the weekly sales go to a number of community organizations across the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, Valleyfield and Ontario.
“We think everyone is being patient until we get up and running again,” said Atwood and Louch. “We hope not only will they begin to make donation of used items once again but also support the Bunker as customers when it reopens.”
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Centre d’action bénévole L’Actuel cordoned off their front entryway to stop well-intentioned people from making more donations as they – like many others – simply no longer have the room.
Centre d'action bénévole L'Actuel
Vaudreuil-Dorion based Centre d'action bénévole L'Actuel is encountering similar difficulties as roughly 30 per cent of their operating budget comes from their popular friperie located on rue Adèle.
General Director Francine Plamondon said the drop in incoming revenue has stretched their resources, and while their outreach efforts have helped them amassed an additional $17,000 to help support their food bank and provide resources for young families, much more is still needed.
The organization provides services throughout the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region including food and clothing assistance, help for families facing difficulties with infants and young children, medical transportation accompaniment and many more community programs. While much of their funding through various government agencies is secured, the income from the friperie had been dedicated to the family programs.
“This has had a direct impact on the services we provide to families, including emergency food aid,” said Plamandon. Though residents in need will still be offered the necessary help, the organization is not sure how their model will function moving forward.
Plamondon said she's uncertain when the boutique will reopen but it's not going to be the projected May 25 opening date for most businesses in the greater Montreal and off-island regions.
“We're not considered a retail operation,” she said, adding they fall more under the 'recycling' category according to government definition.
Compounding the organization's challenges is the fact that even before the closure, the donation bins and drop-off points were full and despite L'Actuel issuing many pleas to the population to stop bringing donations, boxes and bags continued to show up as people used time off to clean house, often leaving clothing on the building's front porch.
The boutique can not necessarily sell every donated item and many pieces of clothing that didn't meet their standards were passed on to secondary recycling companies who have also ceased operations, leaving the friperie literally holding the bag.
“We're currently in discussions with the MRC to determine if there are other recycling options available but our usual operating model just isn't working right now.”
Plamondon said even if the boutique reopens within the next few weeks, the staff and volunteers can't possibly meet the store's day-to-day functions while sorting through mountains of discarded household items and clothing.
And, like many other similar organizations, most of the volunteers are of retirement age, many of whom are less keen to venture out in public these days.
Plamondon stressed that despite the boutique's closure, anyone requiring immediate aid for food or clothing can call (450) 455-3331, ext. 228 and the organization continues to accept donations from the public to help them meet the needs of region's population during this difficult period.