Ottawa friends open online thrift shop on Instagram

Is it that one-of-a-kind look you crave, an haute-couture outfit at a rock-bottom price, or the excitement of finding a vintage t-shirt of days gone by.

A consignment shop can be more than second-hand clothing.

Two friends have created an action-packed online forum where shoppers, from around the world, hope to score the perfect piece of children’s attire.

The Thrifted Mini is an Instagram-only consignment thrift shop, where bargain hunters and vintage seekers alike can tune into the Instagram stories during 'drop times.' That's where as many as 100 posts, up to 200 pieces of children’s clothing, from newborn to seven-years-old, will be up for grabs.

The first person to respond to the individual story receives that item.

"It’s a rush! They scroll through the pictures, if they like it, they respond and then they scroll quickly to the next one," says Amy Dijkema.

She and her longtime friend and neighbour, Aly Marcotte, opened the shop seven months ago.

"Our feed is where we display some of our hot ticket items that we know you can’t really get in stores anymore. They’re a couple years old, they’re one of a kind pieces or they’re locally made. Those are the ones that we tend to put up on our feed and people get excited. A little glimpse of what’s happening that night."

"It’s kind of something we always had in the back of our mind and Amy woke up one night and decided this is something we need to jump on," says Marcotte. "Amy and I both have four children, so eight kids between the two of us and we have gone through so much baby clothing that at the end of the cycle we’ve just said, 'OK, I guess we have to toss it out, donate it.'"

The two wanted to create a sustainable business, not only to keep barely used clothes out of landfills, but provide a means for people to save money, and earn some, while working from their homes.

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"Honestly from day one has just taken off," says Marcotte. "It’s been something really good for the two of us because being home with four kids during a pandemic, for each of us there’s not a lot to do. There is no creative outlet right now."

Deliveries of consignment clothes come from across Canada. The two meticulously go through the thousands of articles to find the best and most unique pieces. Clothes that do not make the cut are either returned to the customer or donated to local charities.

"We take those clothes, we photograph them, we price them and we curate them," says Dijkema.

Marcotte added that the two spend hours mixing and matching ideal outfits that will go up for sale.

"It’s not just like grabbing the bag that comes to us and selling it. It’s picking that there is a good spread of ages, there is a good spread of styles, there are expensive items, there’s less expensive items, there’s brand names, there’s no names, handmade and locally made items."

Sale 'drops; are held at least twice a week, usually on Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. 'Mini sales’ do happen throughout the week, and Marcotte says they have a 90 per cent sellout rate. 

"Not only are the clothes at a cheaper price and really nice, but it’s community."

The Thrifted Mini has gained a large following of price-savvy shoppers. Customer Rebekah Hambley says not only are there fashionable finds at discount costs, other customers and parents who visit the site can connect.

"You get more than just the clothes, you get a friendship," says Hambley, who makes at least one purchase a week. "Even when they’re sharing the pictures, I’ve found other people who all of a sudden I’m following them and becoming friends with them."

Hambley, who has two daughters, four-year-old Savannah and five-month-old Rosie, found the store while she was at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

"(Rosie) had just undergone three life-saving surgeries," says Hambley. "The thrift store gave me so much joy. I could sit down and hold my baby and shop and it was so much more than clothes too, it was a way for me to have a mental break from whatever else was going on."

Between the two homes of Marcotte and Dijkema, there is a small deck that leads into a clean and well-organized shed where all the sold items of clothing hang on racks, bagged and arranged alphabetically. The service is contactless, customers can head inside and grab their order. There is also a library worth of children’s books, free for anyone who needs one.

Local delivery is available and for those who shop outside of Ottawa, The Thrifted Mini can ship globally and makes frequent sales across Canada, the United States, and even as far as Panama.

"It’s been very successful. We weren’t really sure how it would go, we didn’t think it would take off as well as it did but we’re overwhelmed and grateful for the response that we have gotten," says Dijkema. "And that fuels us to keep us going and to grow to make it bigger and better everyday."