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It used to be that thrift shopping was seen almost as a bad thing. Fortunately times have changed and not only is it now considered to be both economical and fun, for some it has even become a sport!

April - May 2009 St. Phillips Rummage

Here below is my overview of all the different places to score some terrific and thrifty finds. Each is a bit different and you should tailor your thrift shopping to suit your own style and needs. But, if you have an opportunity to check them all out it could be well worth your while.

  1. Free Stuff
    Classifieds: This is by far the most economical option. Check your local papers and Web sites such as Craigslist and UsedVancouver for people looking to give stuff away. You could be pleasantly surprised by what you can find. Always a good idea to check those sections often as they do change regularly.
    Community Clean Ups: Many communities have a few days a year that they set aside for people to pile all their unwanted items in their driveways/yards. It stays out for a few days before being picked up, allowing the true thrift enthusiast time to check it out. What is left over is picked up by the sanitation workers and sent to the dump. Good to get there early as the good stuff gets picked over quickly.
    Neighbourhood Giveaways: For those areas that do not have the community pick ups, people will often leave stuff in their laneway/lobby/yards with a little sign that is usually labeled “free”. This is a common practice in many areas and apartment buildings. Don’t feel embarrassed about picking stuff–you are saving it from hitting the landfills and extending its shelf life a little longer. If it is not happening in your area, start the trend and see what happens.
    Exchange Parties: These are becoming more popular with women wanting to find some creative ways to swap clothing and accessories but could be adapted for all sorts of stuff.  Check out my post on how to host your own Clothing Exchange Party.
    Dumpster Diving: Now this is not for everyone, but you never know what you can find in the dumpsters behind large apartment buildings.
  2. Garage Sales
    The next level up from the free stuff is the garage sale. In general, you can often find what you are looking for at a great price. However, types of items and prices may vary depending on which part of town you are in. Check your local classifieds, garage sale listings, and local signage out on weekends for where to go.
  3. Classifieds
    Both the daily and smaller community newspapers have classified sections where people will post a variety of items for sale, usually reasonably priced. Many other publications also have a classified section in print and online. Again, sites like Craigslist and UsedVancouver offer a huge selection of items in many different categories and people will often post photos of the items.
  4. Flea Markets/Swap Meets
    Although some are held year round, most of these sales occur in the spring and summer months. This is another terrific place to find a great deal on what you are looking for. Here people rent out tables or space to sell their wares. Again, depending on where you go you can pretty much find almost anything this way at a great price. Check out Market Market on this site for links to a variety of local markets.
  5. Rummage, Church, and School Sales
    These are usually held as fundraisers and items are always donated–keeping the prices quite reasonable. Because proceeds will benefit the organization, people usually donate quality items. Best to get there early or near the end of the day when prices are reduced to sell. Fall and spring are when you see most of these sales showing up in the classified sections of your local papers.
  6. Thrift Stores
    Here items are also donated, but because this is a storefront the prices will be a bit more. In general though, you can still find some terrific deals that will be less than the secondhand or consignment stores. Some or all of the proceeds are usually donated to a charity.
  7. Auctions
    Although not typically associated with thrift shopping, some auctions have one day a week that they set aside for items that are of lesser value and can’t be sold at the Estate Auctions. Here you can find some incredible deals, often for under $25. But sometimes you need to buy things in bulk to get access to the true treasures.
  8. Friends and Families
    We often forget to check in with friends and families to see if they might have what we are looking for. It never hurts to ask around as often friends and family will just give stuff away.

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Granville Island Market - peppersTo Market, to market, and to market again. Now more than ever, Vancouver has an incredible selection of markets that range from selling fresh produce to art, crafts, knick knacks, antiques and secondhand goods. Whether you are local or visiting from out of town, there is something truly special to be said about Vancouver’s public markets. Not only do they give you a sense of community but they also provide you with a glimpse into the local culture and the people who make it come alive.  And for the savvy shopper, who enjoys the feast and the find, public markets are like banquet meals – there is incredible variety and people always want to go back for more.

Surprisingly, Vancouver didn’t always embrace the public market concept. Market Hall, the first public market of record, appeared in 1889 and lasted nine years. Although the building is long gone, its history is a key part of Vancouver. Having once housed pigs, cows, chickens and local produce, it also became Vancouver’s first city hall in 1897. The market continued in the basement but it appears that it was somewhat distracting to conduct municipal affairs and fancy galas with live stock wandering about. The market closed two years later and it wasn’t until another 80 years that another public market resurfaced.

With support from the federal government, False Creek was transformed from the industrial heart of the city into an urban oasis that mixed housing with public use. While preserving the industrial character of the buildings, Granville Island was designed to be a “key urban amenity.” Granville Island Market was opened in July, 1979 and continues to be one of the most popular and busiest public markets in Canada.

Today, Granville Island Public Market is alive with activity seven days a week from 7am to 9pm. Not only is it one of the best places in town to buy fresh produce, seafood, baked bread and meat, you can  also find a variety of specialty foods such local jams and preserves to homemade soups and pastas. And in various shops located within the market, and along the newly developed alleyways that mimic quaint neighbourhoods, you will discover a fine selection of local artisans selling their wares that include whimsical hats, hand made paper products, handcrafted furniture, to locally designed clothing.

For the locals though, Granville Island is all about the food. A popular destination for gourmands, gourmet chefs, and foodies alike, the market is also the perfect place for those who want to learn how to cook. Once you are able to negotiate your way through the maze they call parking and actually find a spot, your senses are immediately put on high alert.

The first sense that is triggered for most people is that of smell. As you walk through the small courtyard you pass the French bakery, La Baguette et L’Echalote. Here you are pleasantly assaulted with the aroma of fresh baked bread and you can’t help but follow where it leads you – inside the bakery. From there you make your way into the main part of the public market, smelling the fresh cut flowers on display at V & J Plant Shop.

Granville Island Market - carrotsAs you open the doors and enter, you’ll smile at the countless rows of colourful mounds of fresh produce: red and green apples from the Okanagan, crisp green, orange and yellow vegetables from farms in Langley and Abbotsford, imported yellow bananas, and layers of whole salmon, halibut, and snapper – all caught by local fishermen. The colours are bright and vivid and you are drawn to touch – to feel the freshness that captivates your line of site.

Next comes taste – samples are everywhere from apple wedges to the cut up pieces of perogies from the Perogy Place. It’s all good. But your visit is not complete until you grab a coffee from JJ Bean, taking a moment to enjoy the smell of fresh roasted beans.  With coffee in hand, and inspired by the incredible selection of fresh food, you find your way to The Market Kitchen, where you can stock up on all the latest kitchen appliances and gadgets.

But one sense remains – that of sound – for this you need to head outside (grabbing some seeds for the pigeons frGranville Island Market - Jazzom The Grainery) and while you feed the birds on the deck by the water, you can listen to some wonderful music or be entertained by local buskers (some better than others). In the background you can also hear the hum of boats nearby and seagulls fighting over seeds left behind for the pigeons. And if you walked on the Island, be prepared to be gently accosted by Dave sitting on an old plastic lawn chair as you leave the Island. Generally there between 3 and 5 most days, he’s on a mission, promoting some cause or another and often selling some strange little gadget. He calls himself a community advocate and is passionate of his cause of the moment, but most people tend to avoid him if they can. He’s harmless enough and talks with authority, but depending on his mood that day, you can never be too sure what to expect.

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Bby Lake - OverviewWith dreary cement floors and retractable bleachers, transforming a community centre’s ice rink into a shimmery showcase of British Columbia’s (B.C.)  finest antiques is no easy endeavour. But the Burnaby Lake Antiques Fair, recently held at the Bill Copeland Arena in Burnaby, accomplished just that and more.

Held on August 29 – 30, 2009, 65 vendors from across B.C. showcased their wares to an impressive crowd of just over 3,000 people. The two day event, now in its 8th year, is considered by many to be one of the best antique shows on the West Coast.

Even before the doors opened at 10am, the eager shoppers (who had already been in line since before 9am) were privy to a bird’s eye view of the show from the wall-to-wall windows overlooking the impressive displays below—further fueling their fervor to get in to the show. Without losing their place in the long line up, they would take turns to see if they could spot their favourite dealers while studying the detailed floor plan.

Dealers, avid collectors, and weekend shopping enthusiasts were all united in one objective–to be among the first to seek out elusive treasures, much coveted collectibles, and perhaps something a little unexpected.

Bby Lake - Joy of CookingI even found something that I didn’t expect. A 1943 copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer. Because it was a well used cookbook and not in mint condition, I paid only $5 for it. I rummage through cookbooks the same way I go through magazines, I go through them thoroughly and often. I am especially excited when I find older cookbooks that have clippings and other recipes neatly tucked away in the pages. From this book, I found a lovely recipe for chicken Bby Lake - Joy of Cooking open bookwings that I intend to try making soon. Recently inspired by Julie and Julia, the new movie that captures Julia Child’s life in post war France, I have rekindled my love of cooking. So this 1943 edition was a perfect find. Now if I could only source out a first edition of Julia’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Producing a successful antique show is like choreographing an intricate dance. All the elements–from recruiting dealers to coping with a thousand last minute details to the instant the doors open to the public, must work in complete harmony. Synchronizing such an event requires leadership, juggling skills, diplomacy, and a talent for “rolling with the punches.”

Renee Lafontaine, of 21st Century Promotions, possesses all these attributes and then some. A former antiques dealer, she has a knack for bringing together some of the best dealers in the area and with her keen eye and meticulous attention to detail she keeps it all flowing smoothly.

Bby Lake - Plane phone“You never know quite what to expect,” she said with a laugh. “I remember when I organized my first show and it had decided to snow that day.  I was so worried that no one would come.” But they did come, despite the weather, and she has never looked back. She now produces 12 shows in the Lower Mainland. Local appraiser Gail Pirie is also on hand at most shows to offer appraisals. You can find a complete listing of all Renee’s shows on her Web site at http://www.21cpromotions.com

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