By: Margaret Harvey
A new not-for-profit thrift store in downtown St. John’s, helps people with mental illness
After a long and anticipated wait from the owners, The Downtown Wardrobe is officially open and ready for business.
Originally started as a pop-up shop, The Downtown Wardrobe now has a permanent residence at 369 Duckworth Street and it certainly isn’t your average thrift store.
It very much resembles a for-profit downtown business when you first look at it; like something right out of Pinterest. But there are many things that make The Downtown Wardrobe stand out from other thrift stores.
‘Welcoming & funky’
Esty Vardy, one of the co-owners, said if she could describe the store in three words it would be “Warm, welcoming, and funky.”
But it’s not just the funkiness that makes it different. There’s at least one puppy on the premises when they’re open. Right now you can find Luke there. He’s an adorable English style golden retriever and he’s being trained to be a therapy dog for the community.
There’s also no tags attached to the clothes. Whatever is donated just gets washed and hung up on the racks. This is not only to make it easier on the staff and cut down on waste but also because the prices of the items for sale are the same across the board, be it a Michael Kors shirt or a shirt from Wal-Mart. Plus, there’s no tax!
Vardy said the price unity could help people build a wardrobe of good quality clothes and accessories that make them feel confident.
“I love the idea of people who would never afford a Michael Kors shirt,” she said, “could now afford it and start to build the kind of wardrobe that makes them feel proud.”
The proceeds from The Downtown Wardrobe go towards Pawsology, a not-for-profit social enterprise that is dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness. Particularly, Pawsology offers various programs and services that help strengthen the bond between dogs and humans and helps save lives.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that dog spelled backwards is God,” Vardy said, laughing.
The Downtown Wardrobe, in fact, exists because of Pawsology. Vardy said they needed an extra source of funding to help with a number of different things like dog training, dog food, therapy programs, shop supplies, and more!
The owners wanted to make The Downtown Wardrobe a relaxing place to shop, hang out, and chat. “I wanted it to have a high-end boutique feel. So, you feel special,” Vardy said.
“I think it goes back to Pawsology. The people that we help, they don’t ever feel special. Nobody goes out of their way to make them feel anything. If anything they feel shitty after dealing with a lot of people.”
Big plans to come
Vardy also said that when people come in, they have the full attention of the staff. They want to make you feel like you matter. They have a diffuser with various scents that make the store not only smell good but also a more relaxing setting. It also helps that Luke will run up and ask for some attention from you if he’s not asleep.
And if you stick around and chat, you’ll likely get offered tea or coffee.
Vardy said the average amount of time someone spends in the store is about an hour and a half on a weekday.With the weather warming up and they can keep the door open, there will be live music and drinks, and events to draw customers inside.
They also want to expand into their back room because they’ve gotten so many donations already.
You can drop off clothing (and other) donations at The Downtown Wardrobe during their opening hours. They are also on Facebook and Instagram as @thedowntownwardrobe