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Tofino loses beloved second-hand shop

Castaways Value Store owners bid farewell to Campbell Street location.
Castaways owners Lise Saurette and John Wynne reflect on the happy memories they had in their thrift store. They said in the first year of business, they were the witnesses to a wedding that took place in the courtyard. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Nestled down a brick pathway just off Tofino’s Campbell Street and Fourth, Castaways was an eclectic thrift store that serviced the community for 14 years.

From gently used flannel shirts and Halloween costumes, to never-been-worn hiking boots and mountains of affordable kitchenware, it was hard for patrons to leave the shelter for salvaged goods without a treasure tucked under their arm.

It’s no wonder that, when word got out Castaways was closing, some shed tears for the loss of what many called the ‘heart of Tofino’.

A couple months ago, Castaways owners John Wynne and Lise Saurette received written notice from their landlord, Jay Gildenhuys, that their tenancy was ending.

Gildenhuys, who owns Tofino’s Shelter Restaurant and the Shed, gave them two full months to move.

“It wasn’t hard to see that something was coming because they were doing work with the building and it had been sold. But, we didn’t think it would be this sudden. We thought we would get a short-term lease or something,” said Wynne, who bought the business in 2010 with his wife, Saurette.

“We’re hoping for a new location. We want everyone that knows us to let us know some leads they might have,” Wynne said.

Castaways Value Store on Campbell Street closed its doors for good on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.

“I don’t think I had a bad moment in my store in eight years,” said Saurette. “I’m so grateful. There has been such amazing donations brought to this store. It’s been a magical experience.”

John Enns, president of Tofino’s Fish and Loaves, thinks the closure of the thrift store is a profound loss to the community.

“For one thing, Castaways has been able to help a lot of people with low priced and even sometimes freely giving things to people who are in need and they can’t afford it. It’s been a great store and help to many people who come to [Tofino] with basically a backpack,” said Enns.

He hopes Castaways and its owners will find another place to re-open.

“If that doesn’t happen, I think it will be just one more step to Tofino becoming an elite-and-rich-only type of town where the middle-class and lower will have a very hard time to survive.”

Castaways served a lot of the town’s young workers, notes Wynne.

“My son says we’ve been helping the hemoglobin of Tofino,” adds Saurette.

“The hemoglobin is the part in your blood that carries oxygen. So, all those people in the service industry, all those people that make all the beds and do all the work, this store supports the hemoglobin of Tofino. We’ve been there. And now, we won’t.”

Castaways original owner Katie Harrison started the shop in 2005 after seeing so many people having difficulty obtaining essential goods.

Her second-hand shop also connected to the global problem of consumption and waste, Harrison said.

“There were also a lot of people leaving and having a lot of valuable stuff that needed to be disposed of and it was just going in the landfill. This store fulfilled a role in connecting those needs,” said Harrison, who now works in Vancouver as a climate change advocate.

Harrison said she drove about 75 per cent of the donations out of Tofino to Port Alberni or the mainland. Wynne and Saurette continued that shop ethic.

“We threw nothing out,” said Wynne. “All these years, we threw no clothes in the dumpster.”

Landlord Gildenhuys said in an email to the Westerly that he didn’t have any details to announce at the moment about the space.