The Friperie Communautaire Huntingdon has been a community staple for over a decade. The thrift store offers accessible clothing and home goods at an affordable price, making it a necessity for many lower-income families. In early December, the Friperie was handed an eviction notice from the Town of Huntingdon and will now have to find a new location by the end of March.
In a statement released by the Town of Huntingdon, Mayor André Brunette explains that the decision to evict the Friperie, made by the municipal council on November 15, was based on several factors. These include a growing concern on the part of the town with the Friperie’s alleged lack of compliance with fire safety regulations, and the immediate needs of two other valuable community resources.
Brunette says the council was informed of the problematic situation with the Friperie, noting that what started as a minor issue has become, over time, untenable. He says the town has flagged multiple safety issues, including numerous potential dangers and fire hazards, as well as the improper and excessive storage of goods. These represent a serious threat to emergency response teams in the event of a fire as well as a potential impact on insurance and danger to citizens. “The Friperie administration has been advised on several occasions to correct the situation, but unfortunately no serious action has been taken,” he says.
Brunette points out the town has been an important financial partner to the Friperie over the last 12 years. The thrift store pays roughly $10,700 per year in rent, while the town subsidizes the remaining cost associated with the warehouse which amounts to an annual contribution of $49,700.
Growing needs of local organizations
Brunette says that beyond the safety concerns associated with the Friperie, the town also had to take into consideration the challenges facing two other local organizations.
La Bouffe Additionelle has seen a steep increase in demand and needs space to expand: “The premises currently provided by the municipality are now too small for the needs of the organization,” says Brunette, who confirms the food distribution service will move into a section of the building that currently houses the Friperie.
At the same time, the town was confronted with the possible relocation of the Services Québec office (formerly known as the Centre Local d’Emploi) to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Brunette says the town “mobilized and launched a campaign to convince Services Québec to maintain its services in Huntingdon,” which will entail the remodeling of the current location of La Bouffe Additionelle.
Brunette says that when faced with such a dilemma the council weighed its options and, after analyzing the situation, was forced to prioritize. The mayor says he hopes the citizens of Huntingdon will understand this difficult decision, insisting it was made in the public interest of the municipality.
Friperie administration blindsided
Guylaine Joannette, the general manager of the Friperie, says the eviction notice came as a shock to the whole team and is adamant they never received a formal complaint from the town over fire hazards. “We never received a warning for fire safety that we didn’t conform to,” she says, noting their last interaction with the town took place in June, when they called about an unpleasant smell. “I need to see a warning and sign it,” she says. “We never saw one.”
Joannette says they reached out to the town in September to request a meeting to discuss the future, but there appeared to be no room for discussion. She says she had hoped to talk about the possibilities of sharing the building with La Bouffe Additionelle, but never got a chance to share her plans.
Joannette hopes the Friperie will find a new home in a convenient location. Organizers would ultimately like to set up multiple locations in different municipalities to bring services to as many people as possible. Though they are unsure where they’re headed in April, Joannette remains positive that a solution will be found.