The thrift shop project was spearheaded by Project Imagine, a student-run collective centred around sustainable community-based projects.
Project Imagine and Get Thrifty’s Coordinator Rain Chen explained that after the referendum went through, they were able to hit the ground running in preparations.
“Prior to the referendum passing, it was just getting someone to listen to us and believe in us. And then when we realized that no one really would until you prove that you had money, … once the students voted with overwhelming support and we got that funding, people started listening to us to say the least,” said Chen, who has been working to establish the store since 2017.
The first step was to decide on a location for the store. In the Life Building basement, Get Thrifty exists near kindred student initiatives like the Bike Kitchen and Sprouts.
The space they chose was, according to Chen, “[not] even a room … it was just an empty cavity.”
Michael Kingsmill, the AMS’s project manager and design services who helped oversee the project, explained the space’s history.
“There’s kind of a hidden catacomb that lies on the other side,” Kingsmill said.
“Just for history sake, the space behind was intended to be the new foyer and entrance into the Norm Theatre. It was our desire way back when in the planning stages of the Life Building.”
From gate installation, electrical routing, new lighting and drywalling, Kingsmill and the Get Thrifty team worked from the ground up to transform the abandoned foyer into a storefront.
“It’s always nice in some ways when we’re coming to the end. ... [One] Sunday, there were others who I hadn’t met that all of a sudden come and a little work party formed and they [were] all cleaning and doing things and you think this is what it’s all about. You know, getting the students here and getting them all buzzed up … so that’s very gratifying,” he said.
“I think it's always a positive to be working with student groups on projects,” added outgoing AMS VP Admin Cole Evans, whose office oversaw the project.
“As evident by the referendum but also throughout the year, we’ve seen that students are really enthusiastic about the potential of this project. So it’s been really nice to be able to work on something that students are so excited about and that people want to see.”
For the entirety of March, Get Thrifty is opened at reduced capacity on Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in order to pilot test their operations.
“We have a partnership with Walter Gage [residence] right now where we will place donation bins in their waste sorting area and see what it’s like to actually pick up from residences. There's a lot of logistics that actually go into it, including sanitization, pick-up delivery frequency, how to gauge the accuracy of donations,” said Chen.
In terms of donations, Chen said they’ve noticed a lack of male clothing.
“We really want to encourage diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, size, age, anything, but I feel like the kind of stuff we’re getting in isn’t as diverse and we can only work with what we receive. Really, I want to encourage everyone to just donate,” Chen said.
“I don’t care what you look like, I don't care what age you are, what size you are, just sign up to be a model with us. We are the platform to represent everyone [at UBC]... [as] the first thrift store by students for students.”