Second-hand store owner giving community new life

Elden Conley stands in front of Second Glance Thrift Store in Raymore, SK on Sept. 30, 2019. Conley says the store doesn’t turn a profit, but is worthwhile in garnering community spirit and involvement in the small town. Photo by Libby Giesbrecht.

In a small town like Raymore, buying second-hand is more than just a trend – it’s a community institution.

That’s why entrepreneur Elden Conley started the Second Glance Thrift Store, though the quaint shop might not be the best representation of a business.

“It’s all about helping people,” said Conley. “The thrift store doesn’t make any money, it doesn’t even break even.”

The businessman’s resumé began long before his venture into the world of small-town retail. Conley started his career with 18 years in the automotive industry. His first business specialized in selling import car parts.

“I always had that kind of ambition to have my own place,” Conley said.

After the economy went south, so did Conley and his now ex-wife, moving to Hawaii for three years. By the time they returned to rural Saskatchewan, Conley was ready for a career change and became a licensed funeral director, finally opening his own funeral home in Raymore in 2012.

Though his automotive interest came first, becoming a funeral director was always Conley’s second choice.

“I was always interested in it from a young age,” said Conley. “People find that funny, that I like the work [of a funeral director], and yeah, it’s a difficult job but you’re there to provide comfort for people.”

Raymore is a small town about an hour north of Regina and uniquely situated within 30 minutes of four First Nations communities. Conley says the majority of the funeral home’s business comes from Indigenous people.

“I didn’t think they were being served to the best of everybody’s ability,” said Conley.

To meet the needs of his Indigenous clientele, staff at all four Conley Funeral Homes locations are trained in First Nations protocols.

For Conley, it’s part of respecting the people he serves and interacts with.

“You’ve got to treat people the way you’d like to be treated.”

Second Glance Thrift Store follows the same principles. While the store may not generate much income, it serves as a place for the community to gather and repurpose belongings.

“I don’t expect the thrift store to make money, it’s just more of a community relations thing,” Conley said. “There was nothing like that around here. It gives people an outlet to take their stuff.”

Even on days when the store is closed, its bright sign and classic storefront add character to Raymore’s charming downtown. Under the streetlights, a sign covered in sale announcements proclaims in capital red letters: “THRIFT STORE OPEN.” In warmer weather, the store expands to include the sidewalk, filled with racks of clothes and shoes to draw in passersby.

“Somebody told me, ‘Well, seeing empty storefronts in a town or a city, for that matter, are just like looking at somebody with some teeth missing,’ ” said Conley, who sees value in the shop even just for its downtown presence.

While the store’s greatest contributions may be seen as its public offerings, Second Glance Thrift Store has provided even greater opportunities for outreach by employing local residents and donating extra items for re-use in other parts of the world.

Lynn Nagy is a local senior who was looking for something fun and worthwhile to do in her retirement. She believes that’s exactly what she found in her “volunteer” position at Second Glance.

“It’s for the community,” said Nagy.

Only a few days into the job, her favourite task is sorting through the different items people have donated. A glance around the store reveals surfaces covered with items for sale, ranging from ornate glass dishes to lemon squeezers. Racks to one side of the room are filled with clothing of all sizes for any age. A copy of Pilgrim’s Progress rests with other books shelved three rows deep, contributing to the cluttered-yet-cozy feel of the shop.

Prices in the store are negotiable to those who see something they like or maybe just stop by to browse.

Father Valentine Amobi from Sacred Heart Parish in Raymore is a frequent visitor to Second Glance. Conley often donates items to the priest for ministry purposes.

“He’ll fill up suitcases of stuff and he takes it to Nigeria,” Conley said.

The businessman once sent four wheelchairs to Africa with the priest.

“We have way more than they’ll ever have,” said Conley. “That doesn’t exist over there. They have people who need them but there just isn’t any available.”

Conley said it gives him a good feeling to know that things from his store are being repurposed in meaningful ways.

Though the store may never make a profit, Conley is at peace with his losses. Plus, there’s the cool stuff.

“You just never know what you’re going to see,” Conley said with a laugh.

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