Let's Talk Trash - History of the Free Store

Let’s Talk Trash - September 2022 - History of the Free Store


    Sometime in the early 1970’s, Noel Taylor came up with the concept of a “Shop Swap” as a way for the locals to share the stuff they had hidden in their sheds, shops and attics. The first one was at the Legion (now the Arts Center grounds) and people brought boxes full of treasures (and some junk) to buy, sell and trade. While it was highly successful in moving stuff from one household to another, it also left Noel with a mountain of leftovers she didn’t want to be responsible for. Having visited the Free Store on Hornby, she figured Lasqueti could create its own and so she set about finding a place. 

    She collaborated with Nancy Varney who had a small cabin near the yellow house in False Bay (on the hill above Provisions where Anneliese lives now).  After some minor repairs to the two room shack, it was filled with stuff and dubbed the Lasqueti Free Store. Run entirely by volunteers, twice a year it would get a thorough going through - the garbage was taken to the dump and the remaining donations were re-organized. I’ve heard tales from my peers of how it was also a place they would party and how the donations were often wet and the space disgusting. 

    When Noel became Regional Director in the early 1980’s, she arranged land to be leased from the Magic Mountain Land Co-op for the Fire Hall. Later, permission was given for a Free Store to set up next to the Fire Hall. Noel designed the building and Jim Drake built it. The Regional District paid for the construction. In 1993, Noel furnished it with her dad’s leftover dressers, mirrors and shelves. It wasn’t until 1996 that the first solid waste sub-plan was prepared for Lasqueti by the Powell River Regional District (now the qRD), but locals were already set up to reduce their waste by having a space to help recirculate some goods.

    The Free Store continued to be run on a volunteer basis until Vic and Chris Lacey were hired by the qRD as the first Waste Managers. Noel tried to organize volunteers to keep the space clean and tidy but volunteer energy dropped away now that a paid employee was involved.

    Originally, the Recycling/Refundable section out back of the Free Store was opened as a way for the Waste Manager to make some extra money.

    In the fifty years since that first “Shop Swap”, the Free Store has become a part of the local scene and a key way for locals to avoid throwing out useable . We’ve all found amazing treasures there. However, since its inception, it’s also been abused and used as a place to dump items with minimal or no reuse value (aka garbage). Last month, for instance, Waste Manager Mark took two truckloads of unusable donations  to the trash barge.


    To keep the amazing resource of our Free Store available to locals, we all need to do our part. Do not donate items that are ripped, stained, perishable, have missing parts, or are broken.   When you ‘shop’ at the Free Store, keep it tidy, and even make that extra effort to clean up after others that haven’t been as mindful. Please donate only during hours of operation so staff can help you.


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