The ReFound Store sign. The three stars represent the three founders of Sarnia-Lambton Rebound. May 5, 2023. (Photo by Natalia Vega)The ReFound Store sign. The three stars represent the three founders of Sarnia-Lambton Rebound. May 5, 2023. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

'Challenging environment' forces The ReFound Store to close

The ReFound Store, operated by Sarnia-Lambton Rebound, will close its doors for good after one year in business, but representatives still consider the trial to be a success.

The thrift store recently announced its closure on social media due to external factors.

"During our trial, the challenging environment had presented us with significant obstacles, specifically to our success," said Rebound Client Service Team Manager Tiffany D'Angela. "Even despite our best efforts, these external factors made it really difficult for customers to visit our store, maybe spend some of their hard-earned money, and engage with our mission."

Without getting into detail, D'Angela also said, "We're experiencing a challenging environment around financial pressures for our customers and just really understanding our customer's needs and wants around our location and getting there."

The store officially opened on Lochiel Street in downtown Sarnia in May 2023.

However, D'Angela said planning began prior to 2020.

"There was a lot of discussion and research around the viability of having a social enterprise support our operations here at Rebound," she said. "Rebound has been invested in this process since that time with many community partners, support from a multi-generational and multi-disciplinary volunteer committee that guided the process through data collection, research, and experience with community feedback."

Despite the closure, D'Angela said Rebound considers the recent endeavour to be a successful one-year trial.

"[We're] really looking at how much we enjoyed this year. It was amazing! The teamwork and community collaboration that came together to support us in starting up this social enterprise... we learned so much," she said. "We provided a lot of opportunities for others to learn and grow with us along the way."

During the past year, D'Angela said the store did generate some funds to support Rebound's programs and services and they were able to hire five youth employees. They also had help from several volunteers.

D'Angela said Rebound remains thankful for the support it received and is proud of what the grassroots non-profit organization accomplished.

"It was really sheer determination and hard work that made The ReFound Store get off the ground here and we are so thankful for that," she said.

While Rebound did receive one-time funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation to assist the store's start-up, D'Angela said the agency does not receive sustainable government funding.

At this time, D'Angela said there are no plans to begin another social enterprise. However, in the future, some takeaways can be learned from this project.

"We have tried it, and we are continuing to focus on our mission of supporting youth and families in Sarnia-Lambton, specifically around our programming, around our drop-in space at the hub that continues to see an increase of use requiring support services and basic needs," she said. "It's necessary that we look at maybe where some deficits were and how we went through with the project -- or pilot if you will."

If Rebound were to pursue another social enterprise in the future, D'Angela said they may need to look at additional funding sources, how it can be turned into a program that benefits youth, and possibly at alternative options aside from a retail setting.

In the meantime, The ReFound Store is having a closing sale where all items must go. The business is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

"We have some really great amazing clothing left, and fixtures and things within the store," D'Angela said. "After that time, the youth that we supported are going off to great and amazing things, some are post-secondary education and things like that. Super proud of being able to have been a part of that journey for the youth that worked within our store."

D'Angela could not specify when exactly the store will permanently close but said they hope to have all items sold by this summer.

Rebound is a non-profit organization that provides a variety of prevention and early-intervention social skills programs to support youth.

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