PEI

Charlottetown store that helps women with free clothing needs new home

A Charlottetown store that helps women by giving them free clothing is now shopping for a new home, after its current location was sold to a new owner. First Impressions must move by the end of September.

'I'm really hoping some generous Islander will help us out'

MacDougall says August and September are a busy time at First Impressions because of back to school. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A Charlottetown store that helps women by giving them free clothing is now shopping for a new home, after its current location was sold to a new owner.

First Impressions is open to the public, and everything is priced at $5, but it also provides clothing free of charge for women in need.

"The idea is to help any woman who needs help, with dress clothes or business casual, to help with their self-esteem, to maybe go for a job interview," said the store's founder, Karrie MacDougall. 

"Go back to school, anyone who is leaving a domestic situation and has nothing, going to court, anything to better your life."

The space on Brackley Point Road was donated, with First Impressions paying $100 a month for heat and electricity. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Free or low rent

First Impressions opened in the fall of 2015, and MacDougall estimates the store provided clothing to about 50 clients last year.

Until now, the store has operated out of a free space on Brackley Point Road in Charlottetown. 

"Our building was just bought and I met with the landlords and unfortunately we couldn't come to agreement about the rent so we are needing a space with either free or very low rent," said MacDougall.

First Impressions has even donated clothing to women who didn't have anything nice to wear to a funeral. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The space had been donated by the previous owners, the Birts, but MacDougall had insisted on giving them $100 a month for heat and electricity.

She doesn't think her group could afford to pay more than $250 in rent wherever they go next.

"We're looking for something with some parking, a bigger space than we had would be great because we do have a lot of stock, people have been super generous," she said.

Karrie MacDougall is hoping to find a larger space so she can put out even more of the clothing that has been donated in support of First Impressions. (Nancy Russell/CBC )

'Joy on their face'

The store was created by MacDougall, inspired by her late friend Susan Coyle Warren, a legal aid lawyer who was always helping women in need.

Getting the free space made it possible to open First Impressions.

"It's been an idea of mine for a few years and it was Lori [Birt] agreeing to that, that really started us off," said MacDougall.

"I just wish everyone could see it once because the joy on their face, they're walking in with their heads down and walking out with their heads held high."

Clients at First Impressions come in for a private appointment and take the clothing they need at no charge. It's also open to the public, with everything priced at $5. (First Impressions/Facebook)

'Pretty stressful'

She has shared the news of the search for a new location with the First Impressions group's 1,100 members on Facebook.

"It's pretty stressful," said MacDougall. "I'm really hoping some generous Islander will help us out."

The store has regular hours where you can drop off donations and shop. Clients make private appointments when the store isn't open to the public. (First Impressions/Facebook)

MacDougall and her team will keep operating as usual while the search for a new home continues.

"I really believe something will happen, I'm just hoping it happens before the end of September." 

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