MCC Thrift Stores Turn 40

Reid Dickie

Regular readers of my blog know I am a veteran thrift store haunter. This was a major source of fun and occasional profit for Linda and me starting in the 1980s. We developed what we called rummage tours that could hit as many thrift stores as possible in the fewest miles. We traveled the South Rummage Tour dozens of times over the years. Its route was Niverville, Morris, Altona, Plum Coulee, Winkler, Morden and Carman, a perfect loop south of Winnipeg with seven stores to shop and a nice day`s drive. I still do the South Rummage Tour now and then. All the stores are bigger now, more variety, more professional but still offer the thrill of the hunt, successful or not.

These seven stores are all Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift stores, an organization that is celebrating its fortieth year this year. I was doing some heritage recon in southern Manitoba today and stopped in at the Altona MCC thrift shop. I found these three spiffy neckties, two 1960s skinny ones and a nice wide silk from the 1940s, not a soup stain among them. My total cost: $1.25 for all three. I donated a couple of bucks as I always do.

Altona was the first town to have a MCC thrift shop because local resident Selma Loewen took to heart a comment made at the 1972 MCC Manitoba annual meeting by John Hostetler, director of MCC’s Material Resources department. He reported that MCC was reducing overseas shipments of used clothing, commenting “We need a machine that will turn clothing into cash.”

Selma thought up “the machine” that she excitedly told three friends about over tea.  Linie Friesen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz agreed a little store selling used items at cheap prices would work!  They opened the very first MCC thrift store on March 17, 1972 expecting it to last maybe six months. Today there are almost 200 MCC thrift stores in Canada and the U. S. Read the rest of the story.

Linda and me agreed that the humanitarian work done by the MCC around the globe was always worth supporting. If you can, please shop MCC thrift stores in your area. This is a list of all the ones in Canada.

On Saturday September 8, 2012 many Manitoba MCC`s will contribute to the annual Relief Auction Sale. The proceeds from the auction will go to support MCC food programs feeding thw world`s hungry. To be held in Morris, MB at the stampede grounds, the sale is a fun fundraising event. Here is the line up of activities at the auction sale. For more information on making donations to the sale or volunteering, go to


Filed under Day Tripping

2 responses to “MCC Thrift Stores Turn 40

  1. Josie

    Why are the prices at the thrift stores going through the roof? I thought these stores were started for the people who could not afford to buy new. Now you might as well go to Wal Mart or the Bargain Shop. I actually witnessed someone get turned away a MCC thrift store because they were short $5 on a purchase of a couch which was in my opinion very overpriced for the condition it was in. If I would have had the money on me I would have given it to the customer.

    • Thanks for the comment Josie. As a veteran of decades of thrift shop haunting, I couldn’t agree with you more. First they were obscure, then trendy, now thrifts are just greedy. They want to compete with everyone including antique stores, dollar stores and even bloody Wal-Mart. One reason for the change is generational. In the beginning thrifts were staffed and run by babas – grey women with time on their hands. They just put cheap prices on stuff without a thought of “what it’s really worth” as is practiced today. Now younger people operate and manage the stores, usually in larger centres but in small towns too, and they tend to be more price-savvy, thus higher and higher prices. They go to great lengths to grade the sellable quality of their donations, their free donations. One large MCC in eastern Manitoba has a section called Something Special which charges at least what an urban vintage clothing or sports collectible store charges. The arrival of Value Village changed the way people thought about marketing second hand stuff. Many thrifts were inspired by the VV model which remains highly successful. The internet has made dollar values of most everything accessible while creating virtual value that plays out in pricey thrift stores. Some MCCs have their silent auctions on their websites. Your couch example supports my notion that along with greed came loss of moral compass and original intent.

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