There’s a small CAFÉ thrift shop at 23 Home Avenue in Vankleek Hill, just around the corner from Jade Garden.  You may have seen the flag that flies next to a simple doorway four days of the week and wondered what is inside.  It is the home of the Community Assistance Fund Enterprise (CAFÉ) shop, which sells high-quality, “gently used” clothing and other previously owned household items.  All proceeds go to the Vankleek Hill Food Bank.

The shop opened approximately 30 years ago, according to its current manager, Ruby Barton.  The Reverend Robert Martin was the minister at Knox Presbyterian Church then, and the shop was created originally as a temporary, six-week way of raising extra funds for the food bank.

“It was never really intended to go this long,” he said.

However, a combination of community need, quality merchandise, and low prices have kept the little shop thriving, according to Martin.

“We take the best,” said Barton, about how carefully the items are selected for sale.

There are 12 volunteers who regularly take turns each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday sorting through donations and deciding what will be sold.  Items that are not selected for the store.   Items that are not selected for the store are sent to other charitable and mission-based organizations.  Unusable items are recycled.  Nothing goes to waste.

“We do not throw anything in the garbage,” said Barton.

The CAFÉ shop holds popular bag sales at the end of each winter and summer season.  Customers can fill a grocery bag for two dollars or a trash bag for eight dollars.  There are also occasional special sales on pants and sweaters, and coats are always sold at half price for a week before each Christmas.  Indeed, with winter coming, there are already many winter coats and children’s snowsuits on the racks.

In addition to clothing, the shop also sells previously owned shoes, purses, bedding, towels, dishes, books, and CD’s.

Barton said the store is popular with all sorts of customers, and that stopping by is part of the daily routine for many of them.

“Some like the friendly atmosphere and the socializing.  For some, it’s their favourite place to shop,” she said.

Barton added that donations have slightly decreased lately, but she is hoping the situation improves soon.  Items can be left at the shop during business hours, but people also leave them outside the door when it is closed.  Volunteers routinely check for donations and will put them inside if they see them accumulating.

The CAFÉ shop in Vankleek Hill is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Watch for the big red flag, or the “OPEN” flag outside the door whenever the shop is open.