An eclectic boutique in downtown New Westminster is helping to fund meal, shelter and recovery programs for folks in need – one sale at a time.
Found Boutique, located at 641 Columbia St., features a collection of home décor, gifts, jewelry, accessories, skin care and brand-name fashions for men and women. As a social enterprise operated by the Union Gospel Mission, Found Boutique raises funds to support the UGM’s meal, shelter and recovery programs.
“The boutique is wholly owned by UGM, and 100% of our net revenue actually goes back into UGM’s programs and services,” said Nicole Mucci, UGM media communications officer. “That includes helping fund the New West drop-in centre, creating meals for people who are experiencing homelessness in New West and the Tri-Cities. It helps fund our mobile mission outreach vehicle, which goes out and connects with people where they’re at and helps gives them the survival gear that they need and outreach opportunities for them to get to know what resources are available should they desire to seek recovery or move towards exiting homelessness.”
Found Boutique is home to an eclectic and ever-changing array of clothing, gift and household items.
“This store is made up of three parts,” Mucci said. “About 25% to 30% of the store is local artisans. About 50% of the store is brand new men’s and women’s clothing and home décor that we curate for the store. The other 20% to 25% ends up being high-end, brand-name merchandise that is either brand new or gently loved at a fraction of retail that comes from movie sets and local clothing manufacturers.”
Cherie Duggan, supervisor, merchandiser and buyer at Found Boutique, said the shop appreciates the “absolutely fantastic” response it’s had from the community since it opened on Aug. 6.
“Our local artisans are a huge draw for the store because people are really liking to shop local,” she said. “The fact that the profits get rolled back into the community has really been a huge selling feature, I think, for people. Especially during COVID – people are wanting to support local businesses.”
Shoppers have come from across the Lower Mainland, but many of the store’s regular customers live in New West.
“They love the stuff we are carrying,” Duggan said. “They love the price points, the wide variety of items that we carry. There is something for everyone.”
In its short time in downtown New West, Found has already attracted a steady stream of repeat customers.
“A lot of the really funkier pieces come from really unique places, either movie sets or things like that. It’s always random as to what you are going to get. So it’s kind of like Winners or HomeSense in that way – if you see something you like, buy it when you see it or it could be gone,” Duggan said. “Even with the new products that we buy, we try to get really great quality of fabrics and clothing, and the way it’s sewn, etc., and yet keep the prices at a reasonable price point as well. Nothing too outrageously high. So you are getting a really quality piece for a reasonable price.”
Duggan said the shop has received great feedback from its growing clientele of male customers, who are happy to have someplace in New West to shop for men’s clothing and accessories.
In response to COVID-19, Found has implemented a number of protocols to ensure the store is a safe environment for staff and shoppers.
“We like to create a welcoming shopping vibe, where it’s comfortable for you to shop, you feel safe when you are shopping with the COVID protocols etc.,” Duggan said. “But our regulars start to end up feeling like friends and family shopping here. We kind of like to create a family/friend atmosphere in the store.”
Social enterprises are businesses created to generate revenue and to achieve social, cultural, community economic and/or environmental outcomes. The UGM has another social enterprise, a thrift store in Vancouver.
“Really, Found came about just because we wanted to create a bridge for UGM and the New West community,” Mucci said. “What we loved about the Found Boutique model is that it’s community focused and our customers can come in and be a part of giving back, while at the same time being introduced to Union Gospel Mission New West and what we are doing for the community, while reaching the demographic of the people who live in New West.”
When folks visit Found, staff give shoppers the lowdown on how the social enterprise initiative helps those in need . The UGM runs a variety of programs across Metro Vancouver, including a drop-in centre on Clarkson Street in downtown New Westminster – the same building where the boutique is located.
“I think it’s always good to share a little bit about what Union Gospel Mission does,” Mucci said. “We are able to provide a variety of life-changing services for people, and our goal is to help end homelessness, poverty and addiction one life at a time.”
Found Boutique is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.foundboutique.ca.