A few years back it seemed as though  the bulk of the thrift stores had left downtown for the sprawl of Kenmount, probably for good. Certainly any place with a decidedly bargain feel.

Imagine my delight when, strolling down Water Street one Friday last month, I passed a streetside sandwich board bearing the words “Your Turn Boutique” outside the Choices For Youth building. A new thrift store!

I was greeted by a peppy young woman I later discovered was Victoria Anne, age 20, a participant in a Choices program designed to help youth gain workplace skills for their futures.

Choices For Youth has been providing a number of important services for at -risk youth in St. John’s for over 20 years. The multiple programs they offer are focused on four main categories; crisis response, supportive housing, targeted supports, and fostering independence.

The thrift store blew my mind. I chose four designer dresses, all selling for an exceptionally affordable flat rate. Somewhat stunned at the high quality to low price ratio, I asked Victoria Anne at the desk for a bit more information about the store.

The pieces came together fast when she informed me that Chelsea Paterson, founder of Model Citizens, was the Director of Social Enterprise at Choices. “Mari-Lynn’s (Model Citizens current owner) downstairs sorting clothes now,” she added.  “Of course,” I thought.

Chelsea was kind enough to take some time to talk to me later in the month, and explained the philosophy behind the flat rate, or what she calls blanket pricing.

“It empowers the customer to have fun” and also makes it quite the treasure hunt. You can find a dress from Old Navy or a dress by Prada, each for the same price. The possibility for insane deals exists, and the low cost lets you go mad a bit more than the stagnant economy would generally advise.

Students in the program learn life and business skills, plus specifics like brand and fabric recognition and other garment trade  know how. They are part of the process from laundering incoming fashions, to point of sale duties. Victoria Anne and her co-worker Pamela Budden, age 21, speak glowingly of the experience they are having. The young women say they feel more confident and ready to tackle the job market.

Victoria Anne cocks her head up from the counter and says “I’m pretty good at this I think. I like talking to people and helping them find cool clothes.” Pamela is quieter but equally satisfied with her time at the store.

Great prices on great clothes for a really great cause. There’s absolutely no way to not feel good about this.