Saskatchewan

'Try on whatever you like and be yourself': Moose Jaw Pride opens thrift store for LGBT shoppers

Moose Jaw Pride has opened the Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop, its new office space and walk-in counselling area on Main Street.

Rainbow Retro also has a walk-in safe space in back office

The uni-corner at the front of the store features many lights and strings of unicorns. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Walking into Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop in Moose Jaw, Sask., you'd never mistake where you are: two large rainbows painted on opposite walls extend from floor to ceiling.

The bright and colourful store run by Moose Jaw Pride had its grand opening this week.

It's located on Main Street and features a rainbow selfie wall, a uni-corner and pride section, vintage clothes and a "whomever" section for people of all identities.

"Anyone can try on any of the clothes," said Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of Moose Jaw Pride. "We're not rigidly separating the clothes. It's kind of just come as you are, try on whatever you like and be yourself.

"It's a weird space and we really try to embrace that with the design."

Wickenhauser said opening a space like this was realizing a dream.

"We've only been working with Moose Jaw Pride in the last five years or so. So for us to go from not having an organization to having this visible presence on Main Street and to have a place where people can come for community," he said. "It's beyond what any of us could have expected or imagined."

Thrifty funding

The shop will help support Moose Jaw Pride and will address a need in the community, said Wickenhauser.

"We had heard from a number of people in the community that they were in the process of transitioning and they were looking for clothes. A lot of trans folks when they transition, sometimes they'll throw out all of their clothes and they're looking for a whole new wardrobe."

It's important in a community to have a space like this.- Bethany Boutilier, Moose Jaw resident

Wickenhauser said in the past, community members had donated clothes but they were often the wrong size and people weren't always comfortable going to other stores.

Bethany Boutilier, left, and Joe Wickenhauser, right, were at Rainbow Retro in Moose Jaw getting ready for an upcoming pride parade. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"I feel like it's a great place to connect with some people who are like-minded," said Bethany Boutilier.

Boutilier recently moved to Moose Jaw with her wife and started volunteering in the community shortly afterward.

"I think it's important in a community to have a space like this," she said.

Office and drop-in space

Down the hallway from Rainbow Retro are gender-neutral bathrooms, the Moose Jaw Pride office and a drop-in peer counselling room. Wickenhauser said the drop-in room is for people to gather and connect.

"Sometimes people experience profound forms of violence and discrimination in this community and in other communities," Wickenhauser said. "[It's] a place to go where they can talk about what's happened in their lives."

Wickenhauser said the previous Moose Jaw Pride office space was 100 square feet.

"For us to have 2,000 square feet is a huge change, but it really makes a lot of things possible that were either a struggle or not possible," Wickenhauser said.

"It hasn't been easy but definitely the store itself is a labour of love, and plenty of volunteers helping out."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi moved to Labrador in August, 2021. She has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

now