Shop second-hand this spring

Value Village has moved down the street to 165 Chain Lake Drive in the Bayer’s Lake shopping area in time for spring shopping.

By Deborah Oomen

Need a new spring wardrobe but don’t have the money? Shopping second-hand is an affordable way to get your closet out of its winter blues and the new Halifax Value Village location has just opened its doors.

After seventeen years at its previous location, Value Village has moved down the street to 165 Chain Lake Drive in the Bayer’s Lake shopping area. The store relies on a heavy amount of donations.

“We’re in partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, so they bring us ten truckloads Monday through Friday and then we have a drop-off donation area as well,” says Value Village Production Manager Margaret Gaul.

“Everybody’s welcome, everybody can find something here which is the best part about it.”

So what makes going through piles of old clothing – some of which might have mystery stains or looks like something your great-aunt would wear – worthwhile?

Fashion blogger and avid thrift store shopper Danna Storey says she appreciates how second-hand shopping fits her lifestyle both fashionably and economically,  “I like to live a reduce, reuse, recycle sort of lifestyle. I also have to shop on a budget, so shopping second[-hand] just makes sense. I like things that are a little more obscure and one-of-a-kind so it also fits into that desire too.”

One of Storey’s all-time favourite second-hand finds is a vintage, floral-beaded coin purse from Penelope’s Boutique, “It’s so beautiful, I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken to create and I love that it is mine.”

To prepare for her wardrobe Storey says she does some much-needed spring cleaning, “It’s awesome to go through [clothes], organize, decide what to keep, decide what you want to donate. I always forget things I have so it kind of gives me new inspiration and reminds me of how much I already have to work with.”

Dalhousie University student Daniel Pappo says he balances shopping between used and new clothing, but “the best thing about shopping second-hand is the reduced prices, and the anecdotal stories behind each piece.”

Pappo’s favourite purchase from a thrift store is a T-shirt made by the Thai brewer, Chang. “It’s got a sweet double elephant logo and was in pristine condition.”

After saving up all winter, Value Village is prepared to provide shoppers with everything they need to spruce up their wardrobes for spring.

“We prepare year-long, which basically means during the wintertime we’ll back-stock certain items such as capris, t-shirts, tank tops – that kind of thing – because we know that when spring and summer roll around we’re going to be needing it,” says Gaul. 

Jane’s moves next door

Jane Wright has switched careers. She used to run Jane’s on the Common. Now she’s in the catering business.

By Sarah Mackey

Seventeen days after locking the doors of Jane’s on the Common for the last time, Jane Wright was back working full time.

She’s gone from being a restaurateur to being a caterer.

Wright adjusts her electric blue glasses and finishes typing up an email before turning back to her executive chef, Paolo Colbertaldo.  They’re discussing an upcoming catering job. Even with the closure of her restaurant, Wright has refused to slow down.

“I feel like I’m back having a new-born baby again that just needs total attention and undivided care.”

Two years ago, Wright purchased a property on Gottingen Street that has since become the home of her catering and event venue, as well as a second take-away store called Jane’s Next Door. The kiosk stores sell ready-made sandwiches, Wright’s famous coffee, and a selection of frozen entrées and desserts.

Although the Jane’s brand will remain prominent in the Halifax culinary landscape, a lot of people still miss the restaurant.

Jane’s on the Common sourced from 22 local vendors during business operations. Those vendors will take a business hit. While it was open, Jane’s was ordering 1,320 free-range eggs a week from several farms in the Halifax area.

“Definitely our purchasing is going to be cut dramatically, but we are trying to build the catering business. With my undivided attention on that now, I’m hoping we will be able to build that back up.”

Ten years of Jane

Anytime a customer wrote her a note on a receipt or a napkin, Wright would save it in a file folder. She’s hoping to combine those with her experiences in the restaurant to create a book of recipes.

“I was hoping to get a bit of a cookbook done, maybe a decade of stories and recipes from a neighbourhood restaurant.”

Wright’s office is a testament to her passion for literature. The former librarian has an entire wall of books ranging from preserve recipes to a collection of Emily Dickinson’s love poems.

She says one of the hardest things about owning the restaurant was dealing with unsatisfied customers.

Learning that you can’t satisfy every customer was difficult for Wright. Her personal investment in the restaurant meant that any negative review hurt deeply.

“I actually had to go to counseling for a while, especially when all the online, anonymous (comments) started.”

Although the anonymity of the Internet limits her access to the customer, Wright still tries to respond to each grievance personally.

Now that Jane’s on the Common is closed, Wright says it’s the personal interaction with the customers she’s going to miss the most.

“Whenever I was feeling stressed or wondering why I do this, I just had to come back and work a service.”

When Wright made the announcement in September that she was closing Jane’s, her inbox was flooded with notes detailing how her restaurant had become a part of many Haligonians’ lives.

“I’ve never felt so affirmed with anything I’ve ever done than when I announced I was closing.”

With tears in her eyes, Wright reads a particularly moving letter from a man named Brian Powers. He details how his new family grew together at the tables of Jane’s on the Common.

“We love the Saturday brunch,” writes Powers, “and your outstanding staff has made us feel like family even when we’ve piled in with more than a dozen or so friends, with kids and scarves and hats and vegans.”

From restaurant owner to mentor

On top of the responsibilities of her catering business, Wright is constantly asked to help mentor up-and-coming restaurateurs.

Most recently, Wright was asked to speak about customer service at a new restaurant in Dartmouth.  She’s also been asked to join a panel of experts as a part of The Fork Project. Katelyn Allen-Romkey, a Mount Allison graduate, formed the business in 2011 as a restaurant communications firm. Along with her panel of experts, Allen-Romkey helps new restaurant owners with everything from marketing to menu creation. Wright was brought aboard to offer advice with business plans, staff training and customer service advice.

Among the new restaurant owners seeking advice is Wright’s daughter, Jenna Moores.

Her new restaurant is being built in the same Gottingen Street building out of which Wright runs her catering business. Cardboard still covers the windows, and the smell of sawdust permeates all the way into Wright’s office.

Wright is reluctant to reveal anything about the new restaurant, although she’s clear that this is not a continuation of Jane’s on the Common.

“I know it takes your heart and soul to run a business, and I just didn’t want her (Moores) to have any baggage from mine.”

Moores has not released any information about the menu.

Moores was in Grade 10 when Wright opened Jane’s on the Common. She worked in her mother’s restaurant every weekend for several years before she moved to Montreal for university.  She holds two degrees, one of which is in business.

“She’ll be 26 in a few weeks,” says Wright, “and I feel like she is starting out with way more experience then I ever had. She understands hospitality, and she’s got the gene. I’m really excited for her.”

A new culinary frontier

Wright laughs when people suggest that closing her restaurant means she’s retiring.

“Catering is a much different business from the restaurant business.”

Not only is Wright concerned about the quality of the cuisine, now her staff has to contend with the complications of transporting vast amounts of food.

“With catering, it feels like its ten minutes away from a train wreck. You just never know!”

Farmers Market expansions on the way

Expansions at the Halifax Seaport Market are underway.

By Kendra Lovegrove

Expansions at the Halifax Seaport Market are underway. Farmers and crafters are looking forward to what the future renovations hold, but some customers are still reluctant.

The Halifax Port Authority took over the Market in December.

“I think it’s fantastic that the port authority has taken over,” says Nichla Pinsent, a crafter at the Market. “Because [the Halifax Port Authority] are [part of the] federal government they have deep pockets, and what needs to be done is going to get done.”

Pinsent has been working at the Market for almost two years, and has already witnessed, what she believes, are well-needed changes.

“Some of the people that have run the place were venders themselves,” says Pinsent. “It’s hard for them to get the emotion out of it, and just run it as a business.

“The woman that they have hired to run the place now, Julie Chaisson [the executive director], is completely non-biased, and comes at it from a completely non-emotional perspective.”

Reluctant to speak about the Market and the expansion

Multiple vendors at the Market were reluctant to talk to Peninsula News about the expansions, and the Market in general. Pinsent says she knows why that is.

“Because you feel like your butt is on the line,” says Pinsent. “As soon as you open your mouth somebody is going to clamp down on you, and if you’ve pissed somebody off at the top, you’re not going to get what you’re asking for.

“But there are a lot of rules in place that have been in place for two years that they’re working on getting rid of.”

Chris de Waal, a farmer and vendor at Getaway Farms at the Halifax Seaport Market, thinks that merchants are just in fear of the unknown.

“With change comes fear,” says de Waal. “No one has been told what’s going to happen, [just that] change is coming.”

The Expansion from a Farmer’s perspective

De Waal has been selling at the Market since 2009, and is looking forward to what the expansion could bring to both the community and to the farmers.

“I think it’s pretty freaking exciting to be totally honest with you,” says de Waal. “The stuff that they’re talking about – the big garage doors, the new stair-way and entrance, the new bar tops on the mezzanine, and a cool kitchen. These are all really exciting things.”

What is exciting de Waal the most is the approach the new management is taking. He feels they’re working to build a functional and fantastic public space, and then putting a Market around that.

“It’s awesome, because this building, this Market should be as much the community’s as it is the farmers’,” says de Waal. “I think that’s really exciting, because this building should be a beacon of local agriculture and the local food movement and that’s the approach they seem to be taking.”

The expansion of the Market from a buyer’s perspective

John Kodama, a fourth year NSCAD University student, has been shopping at the Seaport Market for about two years now. Though he supports the changes, he’s worried about the costs.

“As an avid go’er of the Market, I feel like change is good, but in a certain context. I don’t want to see prices go up because of the construction … in the market,” says Kodama.

Kodama’s main worry is that because of expansion costs, vendors will have to pay extra to have tables set up. He worries that this will inevitably trickle down to consumers.

“We’re so use to such a set standard price for a cupcake from the Red Kitchenette,” says Kodama. “I know that a cupcake from her costs exactly $2.25, but if they were to renovate then increase the price of rent, then, you know, what other option does she or he have to survive the market. […] It really becomes a classic battle of the survival of the fittest.”

Comic books still hold appeal in digital age

It’s a tough market for media. But you wouldn’t know it looking at comic sales.

By Paul Rebar

It’s a tough market for media. But you wouldn’t know it looking at comic book sales.

It’s no secret that file sharing, digital distribution and torrent websites are bringing spiraling changes to books, movies, TV shows, and video games.

Comic books on the other hand are more popular than ever, with retailers like Halifax’s own Monster Comic Lounge and Strange Adventures seeing more fans flock through their doors than they have in years.

ComiXology, the main distribution platform for digital comics, was the third highest paid iPad app of 2012, reaching 100 million downloads in October.  DC Comic’s digital sales went up nearly 200 percent the same year, helped in large part by the company releasing its entire library to Kindle, iBook, and NOOK formats.  This doesn’t take free torrent downloads into account.

Print sales

In 2002, the entire North American market size was estimated at $300 to $330 million. A decade later, it’s sitting at approximately $700 to $730 million. And still climbing.

“It’s an industry that’s booming,” says Mike Crossman, owner of Monster Comic Lounge on Gottingen street.

Enthusiasts like Crossman chalk up the sudden popularity of comics (both digital and print) to shows like The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory, alongside top-grossing movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. A July 2012 article by Publisher’s Weekly reported that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter also play a huge role in promoting new series and storylines, as was the case of DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011.

Jay Roy of Strange Adventures believes that digital distribution itself is helping to boost print sales, since downloading first issues makes it easier for potential fans to get into a series before committing to it.

I think it’s a good way to draw people in,” says Roy. “But generally if people read comics, they still want to own that hardcover and put it on their shelf.  So, even if they’re not getting the single issues like some of our comic account people, they’ll still maybe read it online but then they’ll come out and get the hard copy.”

There’s a collectible aspect that you just can’t replace with digital comics,” says Crossman.  “If you could have every comic on the computer, it’s worthless.  No one’s going to give you a penny for it.  If I have every Spider Man comic from the start to present, that’s a tangible asset.”

Both Crossman and Roy explain that a majority of customers are adults who’ve been buying comic books since their childhood, to the point where collecting them has simply become a hobby.

“People just love the paper, still,” says Roy. “You can’t get an artist to sign your iPad.”