Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thrifters Around the World: The Vintage Cabin's Becke from Toronto

 [Becke in her beautiful Toronto abode. Her blog is The Vintage Cabin is probably familiar to you.]

You'll love The Vintage Cabin. Becke's blog and  Shop are full of amazing vintage finds, and whimsy, too. She's got a great eye for finds and the editing willpower many of us aspire to.  I'm grateful that she took some time out to answer some questions about thrifting in Toronto for me.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Becke.

My name is Becke and I run the online shop and blog, The Vintage Cabin. I love the thrill of the hunt and all of the adventures that come along with it.  

When and why did you start thrifting?

I have been thrift shopping and junk hunting since I was about the age of 10. My mom got me into it and it's been a near obsession ever since. We were a middle class family who didn't need to shop at thrift stores at the time but my mom just had a thing for vintage and antique items. She loved to decorate and find unique items and I've followed in her footsteps.  

 [A Thrift Store in Toronto.]

What do you think makes thrifting in Canada different than thrifting in the United States or other places in the world?

I don't actually think there's a big difference between thrift shopping in Canada and the US. The prices seem a bit cheaper in the US but, for the most part, a lot of the finds are similar and the stores are as well. I have checked out thrift stores in England but they are few and far between compared to how many there are here. I am going back there in August this year and plan to check out some car boot sales and, as they call them, charity shops to see if they have become more popular. I have heard that vintage shopping has really caught on in the last year or two there so maybe things are different now.  

What are the names for "thrifting" in Toronto, Canada? Any special nick names?

I don't think so... I usually stay away from words like thrifted or thrifting myself and instead call my outings 'junk runs' even though the last thing I am looking for is junk!  

Is there a large thrifting/junking/second-hand shopping culture in Toronto?

Yes, definitely. It's been popular for many, many years, if not decades. I think Toronto was at its prime for thrift stores about 10 years ago though. There were several amazing smaller Goodwill stores and the prices were still very reasonable then. There was also this great, super dumpy Goodwill downtown called Buy the Pound where you'd go in with a mask on and sort through dirty piles of stuff for hours. You'd fill your bag, put it on the scale and pay according to the weight. It was dirt cheap but a huge amount of work plus there was always the risk of Tuberculosis or some other terrifying illness because of the filth but the finds were worth the risk. I should also mention that often you would grab something you thought could be a cool t-shirt or something and quickly realize it was a pair of somewhat damp, dirty underwear. AHHHHHH!!!  

Is there a stigma against second-hand shopping in Toronto? Is it seen as something dirty or something for low-income families?

No, not at all. I'm sure there are a few circles who would frown upon thrift store shopping but I would say the majority have really warmed up to it. Big thrift chains like Value Village, although they are a for-profit company and have really driven prices up at all thrift stores, have made thrift shopping a less dirt bag experience overall I think.

 [An industrial second-hand Shop in Toronto]

Are there any flea markets in Toronto? What are they like?

There are quite a few flea markets but I think most of them are crappy - ie, they sell new Hot Wheels from Malaysia, bobble heads and cellphone cases. There is the St. Lawrence Sunday Market which has been going for years that is always good. I hear there is also a flea market starting at Brick Works this summer but I'm not sure if it's going to be really high-end or what.

 [Smash, a Second Hand Shop in Toronto. Full post here.]

Are there many dumpster divers and curb-side hunters in Toronto? (Find anything interesting?)

Absolutely! I used to set things out to the curb that I didn't want anymore or was too lazy to haul to a thrift store and it would usually be gone within half an hour at the most. Once, I even set out a homemade giant poop costume I had made and it was taken in about 10 minutes. I didn't really drive around looking for stuff myself, as the garbage rules changed and made it very hard to find much of anything decent. I did find a huge pile of vintage sign letters on my way home once though. There must have been about 25 of them and they were solid metal and each was about 3 feet x 2 feet wide. I sold almost all of them and kept the ABC for my office space. I mostly did my dumpster/garbage runs back when I lived in Ottawa. I used to go out every week but in many Ontario cities now, you can't leave big stuff out like you used to.

Is there a large thrift and craft culture in Toronto?

I'm not a big crafter myself but there is definitely a big scene in Toronto and for sure there are many thrift junkies. Just head to Queen West or Kensington Market and you can see a thriving scene that has been evolving for several decades.  

What are thrift stores like in Toronto?

I would say they're the same as everywhere else. Some of the smaller stores can be dumpy but I always prefer them because prices are best and their goods aren't weeded out so much. Most of the stores in the city and near the downtown core are very, very picked through. Competition is tough so I tend to avoid them altogether. Anymore, you can only really find good deals outside of the city.  

 [Becke Working in her sexy office/workspace of thrifted finds. See it on Apartment Therapy.]

Where is your favorite place in the World to Thrift?

Anywhere that involves little old ladies, dead seniors (sorry! mean, I know, but they have the best stuff usually!) and small towns in general. You could put me in almost any country though, city or town, and I would make the best of any thrift store. The experience is just as thrilling anywhere I would think - well, except maybe for thrifting in a place like Rwanda or the city of Linfen, China where it's dark because of smog almost 24 hours a day. That might not be so fun...

I love the clean style of your blog, shop, and home: what inspires your selections?

Thanks! I am always inspired by items that are quirky and/or funny, even if they don't make it into my house. I like the mix of oddities with a grown-up, refined look. I'm a sucker for contrasting styles, you could almost say my decor tastes are bi-polar, but I find the mix of humor with a bit of bleakness strangely comforting. For the most part though, one thrift find influences another and the chain keeps evolving (and devolving) almost daily. The key is to keep editing. It took me many, many years to learn that.  

What's your favorite thing to collect from thrift stores?

Speaking of editing, I'm not much of a collector of things - well, things in quantity at least. I do have a few items I always buy when I see though and that includes starburst cutlery from the 50s/60s, metal figurines of the Statue of Liberty, plain white vases and items with crests and/or military symbols.  

[Pierre the French Bulldog. I want him.]

And randomly: can I have your frenchie? I will name him Bruce and give him a cape. We'll fight crime together, he and I.

And yes, you can have Pierre but I must warn you, he is NOT into thrift shopping whatsoever. He'll only stress you out at yard sales and he'll even sigh loudly if you try showing him your amazing finds (like most men).


If you would like to be featured in Thrifters Around the World, shoot me an e-mail
I would love to interview you and chat about thrifting where you live.

Past Thrifters Around The World Interviews:
[5/13/2011] Thrifters Around the World: Thrift in Vancouver, Canada with SixBalloons 
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Love this post ... always like to see others experiences!

  2. love this post and her blog - what a fabulous sense of humour! she's a good writer too. you can have the dog, but i want those pantone mugs. omg.

  3. Another great interview. If that picture is a typical thrift store then they are certainly a lot larger than what we have in the UK - on the whole ours are small and pretty dingy, and only specialist ones would have a lot of furniture, most places just don't have the room. Of course, there are exceptions. It has certainly got more popular in the last few years though, doubtless in part due to the recession, but also the increased visibility of vintage in magazines etc.

    (Van - the swap is very much still open, no partners have been allocated yet so if you want in, you're welcome)

    Lakota x

  4. Thank you, Thrift Core for featuring Becke and The Vintage Cabin. I live in Toronto and it's always great to learn more about the thrifting groove here.
    Thrifters from around the World is an excellent series and I thoroughly enjoy reading about the different perspectives of thrift culture, individually and globally, thank you again.

  5. Laura: I'm glad you like them! I love to see what unites us as thrifters across the globe, and everyone's own unique experiences and feelings about it, too.

  6. Lakota: I love how thrifting and being thrifty is becoming a worldwide trend. I hope it becomes a permanent shift.

  7. Love this post and how universal thrifting is. Becke is fabulous, we need her on!

  8. I found the Vintage Cabin blog recently and read most of it, I noticed a sign on one of her photos that read Binegar Bottom, well that is fairly near me. If she is heading near the Bristol area in England then there is the Shepton Mallet flea which takes place 7 times a year. Dates on the website. Love her space, just wish I could be as neat!

  9. Tonya: Oh, thank you for those tips! I'll relay them to her. I wish I could be as neat as her too, I'm gonna wrangle some tips from her on that.

  10. I've only thrifted in Montreal (on a vacation 5 years ago) but their stores definitely rival the ones I shop at in Chicago (large, good prices, lots of vintage items).

    Canada & Australia seem to have similar thrift cultures to the U.S. based on my blog reading. I'm digging the way that Becke decorated her home, it's a sweet mix of MCM, industrial and wildlife.

  11. I have never heard the phrase thrifting. But it looks like something I would definitely be interested in. I used to create my own crafts when I was younger. --LaTisha

  12. Wonderful interview, Van! Thanks so much for commenting on our blog. We usually get fashion bloggers dropping a line, but that means we don't tend to branch out as much on our blog roll. I love to see interiors based on thrift store finds too! So inspiring!

  13. Great article. I like your post. I will keep visiting this blog very often. It is good to see you verbalize from the heart and your clarity on this important subject on trees can be easily observed. I will share it to my friends also.


  14. Great article! She's right though. 10 years ago if I had known then what I know now, I would have rented out a storage unit and started buying up all the second hand finds. These days you have to 'look' really good and outside of the GTA to find anything.

  15. great work has done thanks for sharing and keep it up

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