Repeats founder retires from Charlottetown, PEI, thrift store after 25 years
CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI — The founder of a local thrift store quits due to illness.
Nadine Ramsay, founder of Quality Used Family Clothing, is known to many in the community for her nurturing spirit.
“I couldn’t tell you how many kids she has who call her Grammie Dean, who are unrelated to us,” said Mary Matthews, Ramsay’s daughter and co-owner of Repeats, when speaking to SaltWire. Network in the break room. from the store on Capital Drive on August 2.
“She is Grammie Dean to many. She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman, inside and out,” Matthews said.
The decision to pass on the responsibility of manager and costume designer at Repeats wasn’t easy, her daughter said.
“She’s definitely a fighter and wasn’t ready to retire, at 78 she would have carried on as long as she could. She…continues to have medical issues so she really has no d ‘no choice (but to retire),'” Matthews said.
25 years in business
Ramsay hasn’t been to the store for a while, but customers keep asking about her.
When Matthews broke the news of Ramsay’s retirement on social media, comments and memories poured in.
“Mom treats everyone like family. That’s what’s always been special about Mom,” Matthews said.
Ramsay opened the store in 1996, selling used clothing imported from an American supplier.
As the business grew, it also found a niche selling new costume items year-round.
The store also accepts donations, which they organize, wash, repair and sell with pink tags, with proceeds going to breast cancer research.
“Could you ask for much more in the selection?” says a customer, pointing to rows and rows of clothes, costumes, shoes and jewelry. She was hesitant to share her name for fear that her husband would see her save.
She said shopping at Repeats is a way to cut costs, which allows her to help her grandchildren.
Another shopper was looking for a cowboy hat and was happy to see a great selection on the shelves in the costume section.
Meanwhile, in the shoe section, two friends were, “just shopping, hanging out.”
Mother and daughter each have their own specialties. Together they ran the store and were the only full-time employees until Ramsay’s illness.
“I can do payroll and admin stuff, but mom really did all the little things, like fix something, sew on buttons,” Matthews said. “It would be nothing for a customer to come in on Halloween and want a fringe vest and she’ll take it and sit here – and they’ll be waiting – while she cuts all those fringes.”
Matthews was sitting at the table in the break room, her fingers mimicking scissors.
“She would take care of her customers. She really did.
But business hasn’t always been easy. A fire closed the store for 14 months in 2014 and 2015.
Matthews said she then urged her mother to retire, but soon realized why Ramsay kept her store.
“When we had the grand opening, that’s when I really understood how important it was for her here. People were coming in – it was like a family reunion and mom was walking on air. I don’t even know if her feet touched the ground, she was so happy and so proud. It was all worth it.
It was then that Matthews became part owner. She had worked alongside Ramsay since she retired from nursing, so it was a natural step to partner up.
“I always put in the same number of hours,” she said. “I’ve always tried to lessen mom’s burden.”
The company has also successfully emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We managed to stay open and keep our customers safe and did everything we could due to COVID.”
Why are some beacons pink?
Repeats Quality Used Family Clothing accepts clothing donations from the community and donates 10% of the proceeds to breast cancer research.
Everything they take is sorted and anything stained is thrown away. The rest is stored and labeled with a pink price tag, to distinguish it from the rest of the inventory.
“It takes time, but we’ve always felt really good doing what we’re doing,” said co-owner Mary Matthews.
Years to come
Ramsay started feeling a little unwell in May, and from there a rapid decline landed her in hospital until recently.
Ramsay is home now and thinks back to the store, her daughter said.
“I miss her here everyday, trust me,” Matthews said.
She’d love to see her mom back in the store for a few hours at a time – as long as she felt up to it, of course – maybe collecting a few of her signature Halloween costume kits, or creating some of the black halos that no vendor seems to stock, but it’s unclear if that will happen.
For now, Matthews will try to complete.
“It will be hard to fill these shoes, to know if I could ever measure up to her, but I will try,” she said.
“I hope to do what mum did. It’s her baby. I hope it continues for as long as I can – make mum proud.