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Island thrift store closure thwarted in just 10 hours by community support

Lake Trail Thrift Store in Courtenay put out a call for help on Thursday morning
Lake Trail Thrift Store owner Mathew Townsend stands in front of his store. On Thursday morning, he put out a call for immediate help to keep the shop open. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Lake Trail Thrift Store will stay open thanks to community support.

On Thursday (Jan. 18), store owner Mathew Townsend posted a call for financial help. Within ten hours, his store received enough support that it would survive another month.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Townsend. “I didn’t expect that at all. There’s a lot of people just stopping by to drop off money.”

Earlier that morning, Townsend posted on social media for Lake Trail Thrift Store. His post read, “we need $2,000 today or we will be closing forever. HELP!”

Customers in store

The call for help spurred lots of community response.

When the Record arrived at the thrift store, a dozen shoppers buzzed around inside. A man at the front poured coins from his palm into the tip jar. Rachel Scott walked around with a plant in her hand.

“I love this store,” said Scott. “I would like to keep them in business. This is your true dollar store kind of thing.”

Scott has been a customer for three years. When asked how she would respond if a larger thrift store called for help, she spoke candidly.

“I wouldn’t care,” she said and broke out in laughter. “This is just local, it’s real people. It’s cramped and crowded, but I kind of like that. It gives the vibe that you’re on the hunt for something good.”

Rachel Scott visited during her lunch break. She learned of the thrift store’s call for help on social media. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Other customers were shopping for the first time.

“I came to town to get a tire fixed, and got sent over,” said Cory Nyholm. “(People) were telling us about it. That the community was getting together and trying to save the store.”

Someone also came in with a large deal.

According to Townsend, an anonymous community member reached out to him. The person offered to purchase 500 items for people experiencing homelessness — clothes, blankets, and more.

Townsend and a coworker (who asked not to be named) piled items behind the counter. They were hoping the buyer would follow-through with the plan, but they had no guarantee.

Financial troubles

When asked why the store would close forever if it didn’t earn $2,000 by the end of Thursday, Townsend said the business had no money left.

The store operates at a loss, he told the Record. He normally supports it with personal income, but that’s been impossible lately.

After the day’s surge in support, the Record asked Townsend if the business was safe for the future. He said it’s not that simple.

“I’d like to say yes, but today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow.”

Mathew Townsend is seen in his thrift shop. He helps someone get an item off the top shelf. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Connor McDowell

About the Author: Connor McDowell

Started at the Record in May 2023. He studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax
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