Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nifty thrift

MCC's rural second-hand stores are bargain motherlodes

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Embroidered linens, green Depression-era glass, funky 1950s armchairs, more lamps than you can shake a stick at. And, for some reason, a ton of potato-shaped china casserole dishes.

These are some of the dirt-cheap treasures hidden in the chain of Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores located in nearly every southern Manitoba town.

Manitobans don't realize it, but we have arguably the best second-hand, antique and thrift stores in the country.

Ontario's are too expensive and picked-over. There's not enough cool old stuff in Alberta or B.C. But Manitoba's penchant for frugality and care with possessions makes this province a thrift-store paradise.

Winnipeg's 40-odd Value Villages and Goodwills are great, but the real gems are beyond the Perimeter Highway where hipsters don't often venture. In these times of recession and recycling, a tour of the MCC stores in Morris, Altona, Winkler, Carman and beyond offers a great excuse for a day trip past the province's sunny canola fields and through some of its prettiest towns.

Past gems include an orange, 1970s-style fold-up lawn chair, a never-worn Christopher Walken T-shirt for $1 and two mid-century stainless steel serving platters with tortoise-shell handles purchased by friends who are lucky enough to live right across the street from Morris's MCC.

There are a half-dozen MCC shops south of Winnipeg, arranged so that an easy loop around them is possible, with only a half-hour or so in the car between stores. Steinbach's MCC is likely the largest, known for its hardware section, but the ones deep in Mennonite country are busy and packed to the rafters with oddities.

The staff -- mostly volunteer and elderly -- are lovely. The prices are so cheap you probably won't even break a five, and things you'd find in an Exchange District antique store are a fraction of the price. Still, the MCC in Altona alone made more than $400,000 last year and appears to be doing even better this year.

One drawback to the MCC -- the selection of clothes is terrible. There's not much to choose from and what there is tends to be dated and frumpy instead of vintage cool.

But what more than makes up for that is the knowledge that the $10 you spent on that orange vinyl armchair is going to support the Mennonite Central Committee's peace and disaster relief work.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

The full tour

The Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store pilgrimage:

 

Morris MCC

Located: 162 Charles St.

Known for: A smaller but top-quality selection, great glassware, furniture and kitchen linens.

Finds: A needlepoint broccoli, a chrome-and-Formica 1950s kitchen table, embroidered table runner.

Also check out: The sign near the CDs that reads "Shoplifting is a disease. Please don't get sick in our store."

 

Altona MCC:

Located: 10 Main St.

Known for: Wedding gowns, wigs, a large craft section, a huge selection of kid's clothes.

Finds: A huge crinoline, vintage needlework books, stackable coffee mugs, an amber 1960s pendant lamp for $2.

Also check out: The simple coffee shop connected to the MCC.

 

Winkler MCC

Located: 325 4th St.

Known for: Huge selection, especially of furniture, plastic kitchenware, LPs and clothes. Vintage linen selection is smaller.

Finds: A Japanese-style vase for 30 cents, a Herb Alpert LP.

Also check out: El Rincon Latino Mexican restaurant for reasonably good burritos.

 

Carman MCC:

Located: 11 Centre Ave.

Known for: The tidiest and most cheerful of the MCC stores, huge selection of picture frames, and side tables, a drawer full of knitting needles.

Finds: A neck-traction device still in the box, three rocking chairs with curvy frames.

Also check out: Knockabouts on Main Street for super-cute urban wear. And have a Peanut Butter Dreamboat at Syl's ice cream hut on Highway 3 on the way back to Winnipeg

 

Total travel time: 6.5 hours

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2009 E5

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