The all but empty 600 sqm commercial space on a corner of Lonsdale Street in Braddon isn’t much to look at right now – but that’s all about to change.
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn is quietly transforming the space, formerly occupied by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, into a new ‘flagship’ Vinnies store unlike any other.
Commercial operations director Lindsay Rae returned to the Civium building for the first time in 15 years – he last visited for a very different reason after emigrating from Zimbabwe in 2011 – to promote the store ahead of its September opening, joined by two of the creative minds behind its development, future shop manager Julie Bartley and retail development manager Isla Smith.
“We’ve tried to design something completely unique, that captures all the best parts of what we do, that’s colourful and vibrant and is a place where everyone wants to come,” Isla says.
“We’ve got over 100 racks, which is almost two tennis court size areas full of clothing. We’ve got walls and walls of shelves, full of gizmos, thingamabobs, everything you can imagine.”
Isla says the shop will also pay tribute to Vinnies’ role of “helping the planet,” with reclaimed roof sheeting and other bespoke sustainability-themed fixtures decorating the new store.
“Every item that we’re able to sell in the shop is diverted from landfill and that’s something we’re really proud of and excited about and we want this shop to be a celebration of that,” she says.
While the shop will be Vinnies’ 28th in the Canberra/Goulburn region, it will be the first in Canberra’s inner city and has been designed to match Braddon’s trendy culture with a large collection of vintage clothing and after-hours shopping on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with Vinnies hoping it becomes part of Lonsdale Street’s nightlife.
“But it’s not just about the trendy and the vintage and the brands, we’re actually also providing a really important service for people that can’t afford to go elsewhere,” Isla explains.
In addition to offering affordable (or free for those issued vouchers) secondhand products, Lindsay says Vinnies’ physical shopfronts are also the largest source of fundraising for the charity’s other services. “It’s a disposable income that we can use to purchase food, help provide accommodation, all those other essentials that are needed by the public in Canberra,” he explains.
“And the need is growing month by month. I hear that in all our meetings and our emergency helpline is just getting busier and busier.”
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn president John Feint told Region in May that demand for Vinnies’ services had increased by 30 per cent in the six months prior.
Lindsay says the more shops Vinnies opens, the more funds can be raised to address this need – but with more shops, more donations come in, which require sorting.
Vinnies’ sorting warehouse in Mitchell is currently being redeveloped to make it more ergonomic for volunteers and to increase its capacity to support new stores, like Braddon.
But Lindsay says Vinnies could not run or raise funds without its community of volunteers – at least 50 will be needed to help run the new Braddon store.
“I think this area is going to be very popular for volunteers, because I think this store is going to be totally different to any other,” he says.
To learn more about volunteering for Vinnies, please visit Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn.