Yemi Stephanie Laotan (+Video)
After a surprisingly successful first year in business and an exceptional month in August, I decided to treat myself. I decided to go shopping. But not in the way you’d think. A visit to the Double Take thrift store on Gerrard Street took me back to an earlier and younger version of myself.
As a child growing up in Nigeria, I was always teased about the size of my feet. The market sellers referred to them as ‘Molue,’ a giant-sized yellow public transit bus (very similar to secondary school buses in Canada). Whenever I went shopping with my mom, they would curse and complain as they tried to find shoes that would fit me.
When I was a teenager, we would visit Oshodi Market in Lagos, one of the rowdiest and largest open markets around. Then as I grew older, the Yaba market became more appealing. It always had the latest in western fashion, although it wasn’t nearly as big or “cost-effective” as Oshodi.
Oshodi had everything—Nollywood movies (both pirated and original copies), fruits, vegetables, clothes, shoes, jewellery and cosmetics. Touts lurked around every corner. Pickpockets hustled right in the open. Transit buses, from Molue to combi minibus, operated out of designated and non-designated garages, heading to different parts of the city. The conductors always called out to passengers loudly. It was routine, almost like a chorus, reciting the same words repeatedly, “Ikeja, Ikeja, Ikeja…two passengers left, one passenger left…. going, going, gone!” They would bang on the roof or side of the bus for emphasis.
Here in Toronto, there is nothing like it. In its place, we have taken up thrifting as a family tradition. My husband and I buy from local charity shops instead.
I am always astonished at the deals available. On this particular day, I went in looking for a new pair of winter boots, and I found them. They were still in good shape! Aside from a few chips and scratches (nothing that a bit of brown polish can’t fix), these winter boots were quite elegant. The shoes were also in my favourite accessory colour, light brown. They had a perfect 2-inch heel, not too high nor too low, just right. The design was simple and cute, plus it came in size 10. My size.
As I tried them on, customers stopped to gasp and instantly, I knew they were a steal. They probed, “Where did you find them?”
I replied, “In the shoe aisle.” But none of the other shoes came close.
I glanced at the price roughly marked on the soles. Only $12.00. That day was a half-price day, making it $6.00. What a bargain! I found two designer jackets to go with them. The stars were aligned. In total, my bill came to $40.00—not bad at all.
Everyone loves a good deal! I do—even as a treat for succeeding with my self-employment. I could have spent more but found these bargains triggered happy memories. Strangely, of late, my thrifting has slowed down. Not because I had twins in April but because friends and family and neighbours have been dropping off suitcases of clothes on our doorstep. Even clothes worn by my husband and me when we were babies, saved by our grandmas over 30 years ago, are magically reappearing. And they look so beautiful on my twins.
YEMI STEPHANIE LAOTAN is an entrepreneur, blogger and mother of twins who immigrated to Canada from Nigeria after studying in Hungary and Ireland.