Janice Lattin traces her fascination with used clothes to the days when her late mother, Dorothy, was in charge of the annual rummage sales for the Anglican Church.
Despite being told to wait, Lattin and her siblings would comb through the big bags of donated goods, looking for hidden treasures.
“If you begged her hard, she would up the price about five times. If you really wanted it, you’d part with your quarter, but you could get it for five cents if you waited until the sale.”
Now, as owner of the And-Again consignment store, in a rainbow-coloured, log-faced building on Second Avenue, Lattin derives a lot of pleasure from helping other people unearth similar treasures.
“I guess the fun is when you have somebody walk out that you know loves what they’ve walked out with,” she says.
“That’s really important. You want to have the fun of helping somebody find what they’re looking for, and maybe actually finding that little extra than what they’re looking for.”
The chances of finding that special something are probably pretty good. At any one time, Lattin says, the store has “probably a couple of thousand” items in stock.
“That’s a hard question to answer. We go through a lot.”
While previously-enjoyed clothing is the mainstay of the business, the main part of the store also displays accessories such as handbags, scarves, sunglasses and jewellery, as well as artworks and home décor items.
“It draws people in, because there are some people who just come in to check out the home décor.”
From time to time, there will be other merchandise that falls into the “collectible” class.
“I’m really not an antique dealer, but I do have some collectibles and some antiques. Usually the person that’s bringing it in has to give me a little education on what it is,” she admits.
For those with highly-specialized tastes, there’s the occasional unusual item such as the camouflage suit hanging on a wall in the “men’s section” of the store. Turns out it is a chemical warfare training suit.
“I thought it was a hunting suit, but what do I know?”
The most unusual item Lattin recalls carrying was a necklace of thickly-cut Russian lapis lazuli.
“The stone was nice, but the necklace itself was ugly,” she says.
“Finally some woman bought it and took it to her sister, who was a jeweller in Germany.”
The woman later came back to say her sister loved the stone and was going to re-cut it to make jewellery.
“And that’s when I thought, ‘What an idiot. I could have bought that and had it re-cut.'”
The space And-Again occupies is part of an agglomeration of three buildings with a past almost as colourful as the store’s current exterior.
It began life as the local bus depot, and has housed a number of ventures, including a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a breakfast restaurant and, most recently, the Blue Feather restaurant operated by the Youth of Today Society (YOTS).
At the north end is an off-sale outlet. The south end, where the menswear and home décor items reside, previously housed a tattoo parlour, a bike-repair shop and several other operations.
What most customers never see, however, is the cavernous Quonset hut that previously served as the YOTS youth centre.
It’s here that Lattin stores an enormous jumble of incoming items awaiting the labour-intensive task of being sorted, priced, tagged with the consigner’s information and put out for display.
At one time, Lattin contemplated using the space for a sports consignment area, carrying everything from hockey equipment to tennis racquets.
“I had a lot of people really excited that I was going to open it up, but it didn’t work.”
Apart from the difficulty of finding reliable help, another realization persuaded Lattin not to proceed.
“I went outside and I walked through some of the sports consignment shops, and I thought, ‘Oh, these stink. They stink really bad.’ A lot of hockey equipment and sweaty stuff in there.”
Still, she says, there probably a niche in Whitehorse for someone who wants to start a sports consignment store.
Despite coming from a business family—her father, Conrad, has been involved in numerous business ventures—Lattin says the idea of being her own boss was never her driving motivation.
Indeed, she had a variety of jobs in market research and other fields during the years she spent following her “wanderlust” through different parts of Canada.
“When I first left here, I moved to Québec. You learn to dress in Quebec, because they dress there. I was very definitely not the fashion person in Québec, but you learn to appreciate it,” she says.
“I wear jeans and t-shirt as my basic outfit, but I love clothes. I just like the looks of them. I like the fabric, I like the cut. I like to see somebody enjoy them.”
After a lengthy stint working for TransCanada Pipelines, Lattin returned to the Yukon in 2001 and took over managing her father’s Roadhouse tavern, as well as the adjoining hotel, which has since been torn down.
But that childhood interest in used clothing had never left her.
“I’ve always shopped consignment and thrift all through my years, living across Canada, and I’d always go, ‘One day I’d like to have a consignment store.'”
Then her father decided to close down the pub (it has since re-opened), and she was faced with having to find work.
“So I thought, ‘Well, I might as well try it now. It will be now or never, and we’ll either make it or I’ll know that I tried it.'”
From the start, Lattin has concentrated on offering good-quality brands that are not readily available in Whitehorse.
For articles that are in good repair, in season, clean and not outdated—the shelf-life for women’s styles is normally about three years; a little longer for menswear, she says—Lattin offers the consigner 40 percent of the eventual sale price.
“I guarantee it will be on the floor for four weeks, after that it’s at my discretion what I do with it.”
Toward the end of the season, unsold items will be marked down by as much as 70 percent, and eventually donated to local charities if they don’t sell at all.
“If I price it over $60 and you want it back, I’ll give it back to you. Anything under that dollar value, you have to be ready to let it go.”
Which leaves one treasure hunter wondering: how long should he gamble on that handsome pair of Durango boots still being available by mark-down time?