What's used finds a new home
Pemberton curiosity furniture shop caters to the tight budget
By Chris Woodall
If you blink, that antique oak dresser with matching bedstead could be gone to another buyer.
That's the kind of demand Eve Irwin is finding since she opened her Pemberton furniture store "Used to Be" at the beginning of February.
The range of items covers the kinds of couches, tables, bed headboards, knick-knacks, dressers and so on that people need to fill a room, for practical day-to-day use, or for a curiosity that won't cost big city prices.
A typical couch goes for $75. A carved oak armoire from Scotland is $300 and its matching sideboard is $200.
"I try to cover all the price points, from the low-end basic needs to the eclectic or unusual and antique pieces," Irwin says.
This is her first time with this kind of business after nine years as an office supplies sales person, although she developed her skills originally by selling used furniture and antiques from the back of a truck.
She got a boost of financial help from the Sea to Sky Community Futures Program, a small business initiative that tries to encourage entrepreneurial startups in the Howe Sound-Whistler-Pemberton corridor.
The store is in an older, smallish house on the corner of Prospect and Astor that was in pretty rough shape when she decided to lease it.
"It took three months of elbow grease," Irwin says of fumigating the house, making general repairs and patching and painting the rooms a mix of terracotta clay red, deep dusty blue and bright white.
A fireplace accents the main room.
Different rooms and the basement feature either higher-end antiques or lower-end every day used furniture.
Irwin seems to have captured a niche market for people moving to Pemberton, but she also fills a need for folks as far away as Mount Currie and D'Arcy who won't easily find affordable furniture unless they drive to Vancouver.
If she doesn't have what you want, she'll take orders for the next time she attends one of several Vancouver-area auction houses.
"And if I don't end up selling it to the person who ordered it, someone else will probably want it," Irwin says.
"It took a year to learn how to bid at an auction," Irwin says. She goes once a week.
Some tips she's glad to pass on include going early to get a thorough look at what you might bid on; decide ahead of time what your spending limit is and stick to it; don't be afraid to plug in electrical appliances; and for the first few times just watch and listen to get a feel for the auctioneer's style.
Pemberton's small-town charm and mountain valley setting — and the fact her aunt has been in the valley for nine years operating a consignment store — brought Irwin to the hamlet.
"I fell in love with it here," she says.
She's currently eyeing her large backyard with an aim to hosting a regular flea market, beginning in May. The idea is that people on the move may not feel they have enough stuff for a full-on garage sale, so can rent a table and sell their gear alongside others.
"I've already talked to Pemberton council to make sure it's okay," Irwin explains, saying her flea market would be a good companion to the weekly farmer's market.
Anyone interested in renting a table should call her at 894-1515.