Two men and a thrift shop

Canadian Thrift shop on Pape caters to a male market, hockey jersey collectors

It’s mid-morning in the new Canadian Thrift shop at 1053 Pape Avenue, and a steady stream of customers filter in to browse and buy.

The surprising thing, for this reporter: Most of the shoppers are men.

They come to sift through the racks of leather bomber and motorcycle jackets, and the lumberjack shirts with well-known labels on them like Woolrich and Timber Trail.

Some are attracted by the hockey jerseys hanging in the window. Others want to know more about the cameras, cellphones or other gadgets in the glass case after rummaging through the electronics table on the sidewalk. Most thrift stores cater to women, says Osman Abdi, who owns the store with Chris Thornton.

“We have to get the untapped customers.”

Abdi says appealing to the male market is a new direction for the company, which has been in existence for four years and was located on Danforth and Woodbine Avenues and then Scarborough before moving to Pape Village.

In a way, the hockey jerseys started it all.

While they always sold the jerseys, Abdi says, the fact that they were successful made him and Thornton see that the male market was an untapped one in the used goods industry.

So far, he says, trades-people such as painters are coming in for the lumberjack shirts and using them as work shirts. Plans are in the works to expand into work boots in the near future.

The business isn’t your typical charity shop that relies on donations, which could explain the items targeted specifically at men. The goods, both new and used, are selected from a host of supplier contacts the business partners have developed over the years.

The wares aren’t just for men — in fact, Abdi says, female clients are their bread and butter. The store is divided into two, he jokes, and the men tend to shop on the left where the jerseys, jackets and electronics are, while the women gravitate to the books, ladies’ clothing and kids’ toys on the right.

When the price is right, Abdi says, they sell new shampoos and body products. There’s also a healthy selection of costume jewellery.

Prices are good, too. The lumberjack shirts are $4-$5, a bit more if there’s a hood. Women’s shirts average $3-$5, while hockey jerseys can range from $15 to $60.

Some of the latter belonged to actual players. One they sold a few years ago was actually signed by Wayne Gretzky, Abdi says.

They’ve definitely lowered their prices since moving to Pape Village, Abdi says. Since they’re buying more in bulk they’re passing the savings on to people.

The move to the area came about as they were looking for a location with busy street-level traffic, Thornton says, and Pape Village fit the bill.

“We like to be around other thrift shops,” says Thornton, who’s referring to the thrift shop just south of the store on Pape Avenue, called Stretch Thrift.

“It’s good for business.”

Abdi and Thornton have been in the used goods trade for several decades each. Both cut their teeth at local Goodwill stores and worked their way up the management chain. Thornton was instrumental in starting the Goodwill buy-the-pound store downtown and used to run the auctions in basement. He eventually became district manager.

Abdi, meanwhile, was director of operations at the organization for years before becoming vice president. Both stayed with Goodwill for about 15 years each before going out on their own after corporate restructuring.

While Abdi mans the retail and merchandizing aspect of the business, Thornton manages quality control by sorting goods at the O’Connor Drive and Bermondsey Road warehouse.

Thornton’s a whiz when it comes to product knowledge and can tell you, for example, that a pair of Levi’s jeans with a capital “e” on the red tab are highly collectible.

Local resident Allan Reynolds says he and his wife make a point of popping in twice a week to check out the shop.

It has a better selection for men, he says, but it also has something for everyone and the quality is good.

“It’s a shopping paradise,” Reynolds says.

“I actually find the prices lower than Goodwill.”

About this article:

By: Kelly Gadzala
Posted: Jan 21 2011 6:54 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto