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Chance at a Second life: Piviniit Thrift Store Captures the Generosity of Iqaluit

Chance at a Second life: Piviniit Thrift Store Captures the Generosity of Iqaluit

By Lubna bin Zayyad

It all started when a group of women met at the local pool in Iqaluit for Aquafit. After the class, the ladies would grab a bite to eat, and their discussions soon turned into an idea, that turned into a reality. Soon, Iqaluit would have its own thrift store – Piviniit Society — a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated to selling gently used housewares and clothing.

Since its inception in 2009, the store has been a local staple in the capital and has recently moved into a bigger space with generous assistance from other local organizations. The new location is double in size and offers the organization the chance to display more items and take in more donations.

Chairperson and volunteer coordinator Anika Bychok says the new space has been beneficial but has meant that the organization is restructuring how they accept donations.

“We’ve been over our capacity for a while, so we are actively working as a board to come up with a formal policy for accepting donations… Moving forward, we will have designated times for drop off, so people can come to drop off donations and then we can go through things thoroughly with them.”

The spirit of generosity is evident in Iqaluit. Donations have never lacked since the thrift store opened over a decade ago. There are always donations of items that many others need but cannot often purchase at retail price from other shops in Iqaluit. Bychok explains how Piviniit has filled the gap for in-demand items at more affordable prices. She says the community response has been phenomenal.

Anika Bychok
photo courtesy of Piviniit

“[During our transition,] we would get people asking us when we would re-open. We felt very supported throughout the whole process, and ever since we opened in our new location, the reception and the feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Bychok.

The founders of Piviniit were very deliberate in their mission statement. The organization had to facilitate affordable homeware and clothing purchases, but it also prioritized sustainability by “diverting things from the landfill.”

In Iqaluit, Bychok notes, there are very few recycling options. However, since Piviniit opened, she has noticed a growing trend toward upcycling and thrifting. In an era of fast fashion, one-click shopping, and constantly changing fashion trends, Piviniit demonstrates a growing movement towards purchasing pre-owned items without stigma.

“I have heard those kinds of stigmatizing beliefs from other people [who don’t live here or thrift] … but I think as soon you come to Piviniit or any other thrift store in Canada… you’ll quickly find that there’s a lot of great items and they definitely have a second life in them.”

As the territory enters spring and summer, Piviniit hopes to offer more store events such as their “Stuff-a-Bag” sales with details posted on their Facebook Page. While the thrift store is popular, the organization’s biggest challenge is not a lack of donations or shoppers but a long-term home, and volunteers!

“The lease on our current building is set to expire in late 2024 and we have no idea at this point if we will have the option to renew or whether any other locations in Iqaluit would be available for us to move to at that time,” she noted. “Our current operating costs and anticipated rent increase this fall (2023) are unsustainable if everything else stays the same.”

Bychok said some of the society’s more dedicated volunteers and board members are expected to move out of Iqaluit in or around 2025.

“We would like to be open more often, and we know that that would be more convenient for people who shop with us. The only thing holding us back from doing that at this point is a lack of volunteers. Unless other people are willing to take on the workload of these key people, there is just no way Piviniit can continue to operate the way we have been.

“So, if people want increased hours, I would encourage them to get in touch with us and join our volunteer roster. We’re always looking for people, and everyone has a place at Piviniit!”

For more information on the Piviniit Thrift Store, please follow their Facebook Page or stop by their new location, Building 778.

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