‘Friendly’ Forest Hill store changing the concept of regifting

Do you remember when the thought of giving or receiving a regifted present was downright appalling?

Times have changed at The Friendly Company, a curated thrift home goods store which recently opened on Eglinton Avenue West.

Owner Shayna Mandel first designed The Friendly Company as a telephone service, where subscribers would receive a 10-minute check-in phone call once or twice per week, so people could have someone to talk to in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment.

However, as her launch date coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandel decided to put things on hold because she didn’t want people to think she was taking advantage of the pandemic.

Mandel also had her own mental health issues to deal with. Personal tragedy struck in early 2022, when her husband died unexpectedly halfway through an extended vacation they were taking. Once she returned home, the future looked grim and Mandel wondered how she would go on with her life.

One day Mandel, who lives in the neighbourhood, was out walking and passed by the store at 521 Eglinton Ave. W.and noticed it was about to shut down. It so happened that a friend of hers owned the building and agreed to give her “a very fair rent,” if she wanted to take it over.

Beautiful, amazing items discarded

As someone who has cared about the community and is in the fortunate position of being able to give back, Mandel decided to revamp The Friendly Company as a pre-owned home goods store and donate all proceeds to charity.

Now she says, “If I wasn’t doing this, after losing my husband and having no kids, what would be my purpose on this earth?”

She had noticed that beautiful furniture pieces, housewares and knick knacks were being left out on the street when people no longer needed them. Even in her condo, Mandel found lots of “absolutely beautiful, amazing items” that were about to be discarded. She was confident that these things could be put to better use by being sold for a minimal price so that the proceeds could help others in need.

“Ten dollars that I could donate to a charity is better than throwing it in the garbage,” she says.

This spawned the new concept of The Friendly Company, which she has turned into a “purposeful happiness project.”

Items at The Friendly Company
DONATED: Merchandise at The Friendly Company comes mainly from Forest Hill residents, who are happy to donate beautiful, underused things from their homes, Mandel says. (Alexei Malakhov/Streeter)

Mandel says she hopes to change the dynamic of gifting pre-loved items.

All merchandise at The Friendly Company is available at reasonable prices, and gifts come with personalized printed messages like “Hope you find as much happiness as the previous owner” and noting the money from the sale of the gift is going to a local charity.

“Instead of it being a cheap thing, it’s a special thing,” Mandel says.

So far, the business’s success has been in large part thanks to many like-minded people who live in Forest Hill, people who have a lot of beautiful things in their homes that are underused and that they are happy to donate.

Mandel hopes The Friendly Company will eventually become more than just a home goods store.

‘All about positive energy’

In coming months, she plans to host evening programs including arts and crafts, beading, soap making, as well as discussion nights. She hopes friendships can be formed during these events.

Mandel speaks from experience when she says sometimes people need a hug in a safe place, or a reason to smile. The Friendly Company is “all about positive energy and the butterfly effect,” Mandel said.

Her aim is that every person who comes into the store will leave with a smile, whether or not they buy anything.

After all, she said, “It’s just about feeling good.”

The Friendly Company is currently open Wednesday to Saturday from 1 to 6 pm. To find out how you can make a donation, call 416-903-5363 or query by email.

2 thoughts on “‘Friendly’ Forest Hill store changing the concept of regifting

  • Michael Gelman

    Your piece on the Friendly Company comes at a perfect time. When the news is overwhelmingly negative and Russia is threatening nuclear annihilation, to read about a woman who is trying to make life a bit more livable. Her reference to The Butterfly Effect is perfect. It is only at a community level that we can maintain our humanity and she is certainly doing her part.
    Thanks Andrea

  • Phil and Gloria Freedman

    We were so impressed by this article that you wrote. We may need their s ervices along the road ahead and it will be a nice reason to donate some of it. The lady sounds like a wonderful human being and it would be a wonderful time to think about meeting her. Thanks for the great article. Phil and Gloria Freedman

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