‘We hold no hard feelings’: fire delays reopening of community thrift store

By | May 14, 2020

WINNIPEG — Smoke damage from a fire on Monday morning has left all of the merchandise from the Up Shoppe Thrift unable to be sold. The store had planned on reopening its door to the public on May 19.

“We were planning a soft launch open just to abide by the rules so that COVID is prevented and well, Monday morning we got to work to make that announcement and one of the staff saw a woman trying to keep warm, and she was doing so by making a fire,” said Kristi Beaune Director of Development of the North End Women’s Centre. “That fire quickly got out of control.”

Beaune told CTV News the fire spread up the back of the building. She said the fire was put out before the whole building went up in flames, but not before everything inside was damaged by the smoke.

“It’s quite a hit because the community was missing the Up Shoppe already. It’s a very affordable place to shop. Our items are marked for the community that we serve. So people can go in and buy some pretty incredible things because our donors, which the larger Winnipeg community, they bring hundreds of bags a month,” said Beaune.

With the extensive damage, she said they are not sure when they can reopen. Beaune said there could be anywhere between six to 12 months’ worth of stock.

“So what’s on the floor is only a small percentage of what’s actually been given by donations,” she said.

They do have insurance and have been working with the adjustors, but Beaune said it’s hard to say how much they lost because everything is donated.

Once the building is cleaned up, she said they will rely on the community to continue their donations to help build up their stock.

They offer more than shopping she said. The Up Shoppe also provides emergency clothing referrals. They also offer employment opportunities for women who are in debt.

“One of our programs called ‘Emergency Wages’ where women can work up to 34 hours in the shop and make money towards paying off a debt. Many of those debts are Hydro debts,” she said.

Earning between $300 to $400 is a huge relief for women and families who may be living in housing that is poorly insulated.

“Anyone who has had debt before knows what huge mental health impact that has,” said Beaune.

They don’t know how long it will take until doors are ready to reopen, but they want to get “the little shop with a big heart” back up and running as soon as possible Beaune said.

“Revenue from the Up Shoppe is what pays for programs and staff all of the other things here,” Beaune said.

But Beaune said that the woman who started the fire was only trying to stay warm. More attention and action is needed Beaune said to help others like her get the help they need.

“Our hearts break for the woman who is responsible for what happened. We hold no hard feelings, we just want the best for her. And no one was hurt, it was just stuff,” Beaune said. 

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