EDITORIAL: 50 years in downtown Squamish

If the walls could talk, they would tell many chapters in the story of Squamish.

The St. Joseph’s Thrift Store has stood on Cleveland Avenue — first where The Chicago Hair Gallery is now and later at its current location next to Chef Big D’s — for 50 years.

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Imagine the change it has seen outside its smartly decorated windows?

The almost entirely female staff of volunteers who work there don’t have to imagine, they have lived it.

Addie, whose name we are withholding for security reasons, has worked in the second-hand shop for those five decades, after being brought to Squamish from Vancouver in 1954 due to her husband’s job with BC Rail.

“Everyone helped each other,” she said, recalling her strongest memories of those early days.

The shop began when there weren’t that many social service organizations that someone with fewer pennies than they needed could go to for a good coat or a dress for their little one.

Back then, St. Joseph’s Church of Squamish was over on Fourth Avenue. It is now up in the Garibaldi Highlands.

“Right from the beginning, we depended on the community bringing us donations and they have been phenomenal,” Addie said, gesturing to the clear bags of clothes and linens stacked against a back wall, waiting to be sorted and put out on the sales floor.

Through the years, the approximately 30 women and the occasional male helper, have bonded like family, she said.

“We have laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve supported each other, we’ve watched our children grow up and some of us have become grandmothers and even great-grandmothers,” she said. “It is quite amazing.”

While thrift shopping has become fashionable with the increase in environmental awareness, the store is still serving those in need — both with very reasonable prices and by sending unsold items to various local charities.

The shelves and racks are filled with “anything and everything,” Addie says, and watching people’s excitement when they find a bargain never gets old.

She recalls a man who came in and bought a large artificial Christmas tree.

“He came back the next day and thanked us. He got such pleasure from it,” she said. “That made me feel so good.”

If you haven’t been by St. Joseph’s Thrift Shop, check it out — you may just find a bargain.

If you are able to donate, of particular need, are men’s clothing items: winter coats, pants and the like.

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