Jessica Brown has traded in a career as a carpenter for a new endeavour that’s near and dear to her heart.
After testing the waters at several New West Craft markets, Brown opened The Refill Stop in downtown New Westminster on Nov. 1. The shop allows customers to bring any clean container or jar – or buy one at the store – and fill it with assorted household and body care items.
“You can buy as little or as much as you want,” she said. “If you have a big family and you want to buy for a big family, you can do that. Or you can just buy a little bit to test something. If you just want a little bit because you know you don’t need a lot, you don’t have to buy a big container.”
At The Refill Stop, customers can serve themselves or get staff to do it for them. Some products, such as toothpaste, are served by staff.
“We carry laundry soap, dish soap, body wash and lotions, different powders. We sell underarm deodorant,” Brown said. “It’s all refillable.”
Customers can bring clean and dry containers to the shop, which are weighed at the front counter. Once they’ve filled their container and go to pay, the weight of their container is deducted from the price.
“Everything is paid based on the weight inside,” Brown explained. “Everything is by 100 grams. There are prices on all of the products.”
The Refill Stop also has a selection of free containers that customers can use.
“We also have a bunch of clean containers at the front that we collected. If people forget, it’s at the end of a long day and they didn’t bring all their containers with them, we have free ones,” Brown said. “You can drop them off there. We will take them – people will use them.”
The Refill Stop’s goal is to reduce the need for single-use plastics by selling refillable, environmentally friendly household and body care products. It’s also able to provide bulk quantities and deliver to local businesses so they can become more environmentally friendly.
Brown, whose career path includes work in the music industry, sales and construction, became enamoured with refill shops while living in Victoria and shopping at West Coast Refill.
“I just absolutely loved it. It felt like going back to an older, simpler time, where we shopped differently and were able to reuse our containers. I thought that was great,” she said. “There’s way too much of everything. I just liked how simple it was. From then on, I knew I wanted to do something like that or be part of it somehow.”
Harnessing her family’s entrepreneurial spirit, Brown opened The Refill Stop after enjoying an 11-year career in construction, where she worked as a foreman for a small construction company that specialized in installing high-end kitchens across North America.
Brown and her husband Ken put their carpentry skills – and their penchant for reusing – to good use at The Refill Stop. Along with repurposing some of the materials, such as wainscoting, left behind by the previous tenant, they built many of the store fixtures themselves, and updated the Carnarvon Street space to create the shop Brown envisioned.
While it may take a bit of time before The Refill Stop is fully stocked, it will be adding products as the shop grows and as customers offer input on the types of refillable products they’d like to see stocked in the store.
“If there is something that I have missed, my customers tell me,” Brown said. “I am up for that, and I am inviting that, because what I want to put together is something that New West needs, not what we don’t need. That’s a whole part of it.”
Along with supporting local companies, Brown is also committed to ensuring she deals with companies that do their part for the environment by having minimal packaging or packaging that can be reused or recycled. She’s thrilled to be giving local residents a chance to purchase refillable items without having to venture to other cities.
“The biggest thing for me is putting this together for the community,” said the New West resident. “There are other stores like this in other cities nearby which people could go to, but what I want them to do is to come here because I want that sense of community.”
The Refill Stop, located at 865 Carnarvon St., is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information is at www.therefillstop.com.