Whenever a truckload of merchandise would arrive at Penny Lane Bargain Outlet, staff would not know what to expect.
“We had no idea what was going to show up,” said Bruce Hallquist, a member of the Penny Lane Bargain Outlet society. “We’ve had everything from garden sheds to underwear.”
Other shipments included an assortment of area rugs and a number of identical red dresses. The store, which raised more than $2 million for the youth of the community over its 11-year history, closed its doors on Saturday. When the society was formed, the six people involved were Art Sewell, Ellen Lloyd, Orv Robson, Scott Boswell, Allan Fabbi and Hallquist. After Sewell’s death and after Lloyd moved away from the community, Rick Thorpe was brought onto the board.
“It’s been a great group of people to work with,” Hallquist said.
While the directors had hoped to keep the store operating, he said a steady source of merchandise could not be found.
For the last two and a half years, Hallquist had searched all over North America to find someone to supply merchandise to the store. Later, the society hired a consultant who was unable to find a steady supply of goods for the store.
“In a small community, you need a selection of merchandise,” he said. “It isn’t as simple as buying stuff and putting it out.”
When the store opened in 2002, a supply arrangement was put in place. The arrangement continued until around 2010. Over the year, the store hired plenty of youths to deal with the various facets of retail work. John Van Alphen and Robbie King were the first employees and Hallquist remembers them with fondness.
“They were two very good employees,” he said. “They set a good example.”
Others have also received retail training at the store. The store was something unique in Canada and it benefitted the public who could find bargains and also support youth initiatives in the process.
“It’s a great concept and it’s been good for the community,” Hallquist said.
While the Penny Lane Bargain Outlet stores on Victoria Road North and on Main Street are now closed, Hallquist said the society will continue to support the youth of the community. Existing funding commitments will continue for at least one more year. The assets, including the property which is owned by the society, will be liquidated. The money will then be put into a legacy fund, which will be used to provide funding as long as possible.
“We’re through with the retail, but we’re not through with the community,” Hallquist said.