KINBURN – Savvy Seconds is a boutique unlike any other you ever heard of – it costs nothing to shop there.
For nine years Constance Bay’s Vera Jones, has operated Savvy Seconds, a free, gently-used clothing store that started as a backyard project and has grown in to a permanent store providing a valuable service to the West Carleton community.
They were at the forefront of disaster relief immediately following the Sept. 21, 2018 tornado and they were there for those in need during the 2017 spring flood. Savvy Seconds is there for anyone in West Carleton who just needs a break from the constant cost of clothes.
“It started in my tarped garage,” Jones told West Carleton Online from her very crowded retail space at the Kinburn Community Complex last Tuesday (Feb. 26). “The first year was successful. People came even though it was on private property. We’ve been here (Kinburn) for three years, we were here for the flood, we were here for the tornado.”
Jones has a long history with the fashion industry and clothes-making.
“My grandma was a designer in Europe,” Jones said. “I learned to sew from her, and she taught me everything. She would find a Nazi parachute, and knowing it was made out of silk, would use it to make clothes. She would buy a sweater if she liked the material and would unravel it for the yarn.”
Her family came to Canada to escape the war.
Our family escaped Nazi Europe and we came here,” Jones said. “My sister owned a boutique and I owned a boutique on Elgin Street.”
Her vast experience in the industry gave her both the skills and the desire to bring Savvy Seconds to life.
“I’ve seen the good side and the ugly underbelly of the industry – I know both sides,” Jones said. “The environmental cost of the clothing industry is huge. It’s the second leading polluter next to the oil industry. The ‘fast fashion’ trend is designed to be obsolete quickly. The average wear of these clothes is three times. The footprint of a pair of jeans is huge. More than 1,000 gallons of water goes in to a pair of jeans. We have to re-use. So, I know quality and what can be done with it. My grandma would not be happy with what she sees in the fast fashion industry.”
Match that with Jones’ desire to serve her community, and Savvy Seconds is born.
“I’ve always done volunteer work and I wanted to reach out and do something to help out and take money out of the equation,” Jones said. “This is a money-free zone. It’s created quite the community of sharing. There are people who donate to me specifically because they want their clothes to be given away for free. We’re confidential. We have open hours and we have private viewings.”
Savvy Seconds is also mobile. The team of volunteers have occasional pop-up stores in Constance Bay and have a ‘Free Coat Rack’ full of jackets at Nicholl’s Gas and Convenience Store at Kinburn Side and Dunrobin roads.
Currently the store is packed with high-quality clothing and has two 30-foot storage containers full of donated items in the parking lot. Savvy Seconds turns in to a real community clothing hub in times of need. Donations pick up, and at times such as the tornado really bring like-minded individuals together.
“During the 2017 flood, we were very busy, but the tornado took us to another level,” Jones said. “We had four trailers out back. We had a women’s department, a men’s department, a children’s department and something for bedding and other items. We’ll never get back to that, but we have more clients and more donations.”
Jones says the team of roughly 12 core volunteers work well together in their unique style.
“We’re quite unstructured,” Jones said. “We’re an ad-hocracy (a flexible, adaptable and informal organizational structure without policies or procedures). When the tornado came, we were able to adapt quickly. We didn’t have to have a meeting to create a policy. We were all on the same page and moving in the same direction. We’ve had the same group for a long time, so something seems to be working.”
Jones is ecstatic to combine her love of clothing with her love of community service.
“Poverty is a little harder to detect in the rural areas,” she said. “They say everyone is living a life of quiet desperation. Who am I to judge? A lot of people face a life of struggle. We are just helping ease the financial stress.”
Savvy Seconds next pop-up store will be March 4 to March 7 at the NorthWind Wireless Fibe Centre.
Regular store hours at the Kinburn Community Complex at 5670 Carp Rd., right next to the West Carleton Food Access Centre.
Savvy Seconds hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. or by appointment at 613-240-8644. For more information, visit their Facebook page.