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Opening next week, Elmira “rePurpose Centre” a first for MCC

Mennonite charity launches pilot project that differs from its traditional thrift stores by selling items by weight

Shoppers in search of a good bargain in Elmira will have a new venue to peruse starting next week with the official launch of the MCC rePurpose Centre. It’s the first ever such outlet to be built by the MCC, and will run fairly differently from the not-for-profit’s regular line of thrift stores, with products being sold according to weight instead of individually priced. The grand opening for the centre, located in the former IGA/Foodland location at Arthur and Church streets, is scheduled for March 1.

“This is a test state, a pilot project that’s never been done,” said Karla Richards, acting general manager for the new MCC rePurpose Centre.

“We’re an international charity – we’ve got thrift stores in both Canada and the United States, and we’re the first centre of this kind,” she said.

If the Elmira store is successful, says Richards, she hopes the project takes off in more locations.

“So the centre is really a threefold project,” explained Richards. “The first aspect of it is a distribution centre for all of our MCC stores in the province, so it allows us to share donations amongst stores so that we’re honouring the donations that we’re given to the best of our ability.”

The centre will act almost like a warehouse in that way, and allow the thrift stores to move items back and forth between the different locations. So if one location is receiving a higher volume of donations that would be more in need in a second location, the centre acts as a go-between.

“So, yes, the sharing of donations among stores is really key for us,” notes Richards. “The message that we want to make sure that we get out [is] that when you donate to MCC, if we can’t use it in that particular store, we will ensure we can use it in one of our stores, somewhere.”

The second aspect is the retail part, though with few key differences from the regular thrift stores.

“So there is a retail store there that people can come and buy,” said Richards. “The general public is welcome; it’s second-hand goods, just sold very differently than our stores do.”

The MCC rePurpose Centre will sell items by weight according to category. Clothing, for instance, is $1.88 a pound. [FAISAL ALI / THE OBSERVER]
Rather than sorting and pricing items on an individual basis like at other thrift stores, they are instead sold by the pound, according to three simple categories. Clothing, foot ware and accessories are $1.88 per pound; housewares and books at $0.88 a pound; and jewellery at $5.88 a pound.

“So if you’re a young mother and you’re in need of infant clothing you can come and find a large bin of infant clothes for a $1.88 a pound, and you can get an awful lot of baby clothes,” said Richards with a laugh. “There’s a lot of baby clothes in a pound.”

Selling by the pound keeps everything at much lower price point for customers, says Richards, so they buy what they need in higher volumes.

The third aspect of the project is also perhaps the most radical part, and is really where the “repurpose” in the name comes from.

“We really want to focus on environmental issues,” explained Richards. “If we can’t sell an item in the store for its intended purpose, we want to see what we can do with it so that it doesn’t end up in landfill, but it doesn’t flood the market of a developing country and affect the [local] textile trade.”

Instead, the MCC hopes to repurpose these unwanted items into something useful again. According to the MCC, last year the organization’s thrift stores diverted more than 600,000 cubic feet of waste from landfills by recycling used items. They’re hoping to take that further by repurposing those unused products.

“One of the obvious ones for us would be if we just have too many T-shirts or too many towels or too many whatever, we can turn them into rags,” said Richards. “So we’re hoping we can make some relationships in the Elmira and outreaching area, for individual businesses, large companies, that might be using rags on their farms or machine shops or trucking companies, that kind of thing.”

Richards says that companies can buy these supplies from the MCC rePurpose Centre, potentially at a lower price while also helping the environment.

“We’re in the process right now of purchasing looms and we’re getting some heavy-duty equipment to do high-capacity rag cutting,” she says.

“It’s sort of a win-win for everybody.”

Besides rags, they are also looking into different ways of repurposing metal that would otherwise be destined for the landfills, and shredding denim to use as filling or stuffing.

The MCC rePurpose Centre is looking at getting some volunteers to help out with the project, be it on the cashier end of the venture, in the retail space, or the warehouse. Besides that, anyone who is interested in the repurposing aspect, whether it is in metal recycling, rag cutting, quilt and comforter patches and more, are definitely welcome.

“We have jobs for people of every kind of ability,” added Richards, including people with physical or mental disabilities or the elderly. “We’ve got all kinds of things that people could do.”

The MCC rePurpose Centre kicks off with its grand opening next Thursday (March 1) starting at 10 a.m


  1. Are you accepting refridgerator drawers and glass shelves. Thankyou and best of luck on this new venture, Sounds like an awesome way to reuse items instead of filling our landfills. Way to go team at Repurpose Elmira!

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