Second-Hand Clothing Priced By Weight: Unique Retail Concept ‘Shmata Stores’ Opens in Toronto’s Jane & Finch Area [Photos/Interview]

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A unique retail concept has opened in Toronto where people search for clothes, shoes and accessories in numerous bins, then take their shopping choices to the till where they are weighed and priced out at $4.99 per pound.

Shmata Stores has opened its thrift store with more than 4,500 square feet of men’s, women’s and children’s clothes on the Southwest Jane and Finch Plaza in North York.

David Bryckine, one of the owners of the new concept, said the retailer’s name is a Yiddish word meaning used clothes.

“It’s a fun word and we want to make used clothes fun,” he said. “We opened in the spring this year and basically what we are is a pay by the pound retail thrift store. What that means is we have used and new clothing available and we sell it by weight where everything is $4.99 for the pound.

“Jane and Finch was on our radar for potential locations because we really feel like the neighbourhood is up and coming and has a lot of our target demographics which is working class people. What we offer, if not the best deals, one of the best deals, on clothing available in the city and wanted to find people who would get the most value from it. Really what we like about Jane and Finch there’s a real tight-knit community to it. We don’t pretend to be from it. We’re not. But we try to work with community partners to get more involved and there’s an LRT being built on Finch Avenue. There’s condos coming up.

Click for interactive map
Shmata Thrift Store (Image: Shmata)

“It feels like a neighbourhood full of change and we found the right location for it.”

Bryckine said his background is in liquidations and close-outs. He’s worked with overstock and inventory. Clothing and fashion has always been a personal interest for him. He and his business partner Oleg Galenco noticed the opportunity, met the right people and lined up to find the connections to buy the clothing for the new concept. 

The clothing sold in the store is primarily bought from charities. 

“The idea of pay by the pound is not original to us. We’re not the ones who came up with it. It’s quite popular in the US, in Europe, in France I’ve heard quite a bit of good things,” said Bryckine. “We just thought that the product we could get our hands on would do really well sold this way.

“We have everything organized in bins. These are custom made metal bins we had made in Woodbridge. We like to call them treasure chests. Each one is three feet by three feet and each one is categorized and basically what you do is you dig through them. And what you’re doing is you’re sifting through looking for the gem.

Shmata Thrift Store (Image: Shmata)

“We do have expansion in mind. Does that mean a bigger store? Does that mean more locations? We’re not entirely sure yet because we want to perfect the shopping experience we currently offer but expansion is definitely in our minds for the future. Just no immediate plans right now.”

Bryckine said that for every 10 pounds a customer buys, one pound is free. Bins are restocked on a daily basis. 

“We’re trying our best to have a positive effect on those around us on three different levels which is the individual, the local and the global. Individually means providing people fantastic deals on clothes they love because everything is getting more and more expensive and we personally believe how you look is very important to how you feel,” he said.

“Locally we’re trying to have a positive impact on the community and give back. Jane and Finch often gets a bad rap. There’s a lot of misconceptions. So we want to show the rest of Toronto and its businesses that this is a friendly and welcoming place with a lot of growth potential. 

“Lastly, globally, textile pollution from the clothing industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution in the world and really we want to play a part in trying to reduce it. Thrifting often has a stigma around it but we want to work hard to ensure that cleanliness and freshness in every aspect of our store. We have very high sorting standards. All the clothes that come in are sorted and a certain percentage make it onto the floor and those that don’t make it onto our sales floor we either repurpose it or ship it overseas. Nothing that enters our store is ever wasted. So everything that comes in here either leaves in a customer’s bag or a delivery to a wholesale customer.

“We still have a long way to go. We’re not perfect. We’re just two guys on a mission to have people looking and feeling great for less.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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