author: john loeppky | editor-in-chief
Rainbow Retro’s storefront / Hayley Klassen
Rainbow Retro enriches downtown
The newly crowned “Notorious City” of Moose Jaw has a store downtown that is carving new paths for those looking for new clothing while supporting the province’s LGBT+ citizens.
Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop, located at 345 Main Street North, operates in support of Moose Jaw Pride and the Saskatchewan Pride Network. Since it opened in May 2018, it has also housed a drop-in space and a peer-support room for those in the community. Executive Director of Moose Jaw Pride and the Saskatchewan Pride Network, Joe Wickenhauser spoke about the store’s operating philosophy.
“It’s a social enterprise that supports the work that we are doing with Moose Jaw Pride and the Saskatchewan Pride Network. It operates like any thrift shop, so people come and bring their donations of secondhand items.”
The store came about as a result of a competition operated by Mitsu Sweet Cafe, with the prize being free rent for a year in the space. After a pitching of the business plan, Rainbow Retro was declared the winners.
Wickenhauser detailed the need that the store was created to meet.
“The idea for it came from some of the needs being vocalized by members of the community. Sometimes people who transition are looking for an entire new wardrobe and, oftentimes, that can be very expensive and so we wanted to, as an organization, try to find a way to meet that need.”
He also spoke about how Rainbow Retro is breaking new ground in Canada.
“Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop is the first LGBT owned and operated thrift shop in Canada.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s not just the LGBT+ or local community who use the space, Wickenhauser said.
“Being in this location has provided us with a lot of visibility for the LGBT community. It’s something very fun, and special, and I think it’s certainly a surprise for folks who come to Moose Jaw. There’s a lot of tourism and folks that come here and I think when they see an LGBT-owned-and-operated business right on Main Street it’s certainly unique and it draws people in and people are pretty happy to see that.”
While the contest only included free rent for a year, Wickenhauser detailed that the plan is to keep the store running.
“The hope is that the thrift shop will be self-generating and that the funds from the sales of the merchandise will help us to just keep us in the space, the paying of the staff, and the rent and utilities. So, at this point, we’ve renewed our lease, so we are going to be here for at least another year.”
“Business over the last year has been good. I think that we are cautiously optimistic. It’s been a big success in a lot of ways and so we’re wanting to make sure we can keep going and make it sustainable.”
The store is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the exception of Mondays. Their website, thriftyrainbow.ca, details the items that they can accept, which include household items, clean clothing, and small pieces of furniture. The list of items they cannot accept is small:
“Used socks, nylons, or underpants. Encyclopedias, old televisions, personal hygiene items, household cleaners or food, non-functioning electronics. Beds, couches, recliners, microwaves, baby cribs, baby strollers.”
The store can be found on Facebook at Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop and on Instagram @thriftyrainbow.