Little shop with a big heart

Little shop with a big heart

At the heart of Pru Burke’s business, Blackbird Clothing Exchange, is a desire to help struggling families source affordable clothing while at the same time ensuring unwanted items are put to good use and not simply dumped in landfill.

She opened Blackbird Clothing Exchange at its present location in March 2019, after launching it from home for a couple of years earlier.

The idea came soon after Pru had just bought her youngest child Jennifer a complete winter wardrobe, only to discover the youngster had a 15cm growth spurt before she had a chance to wear them.

“I said I wish there was some where I could take the clothes,” she recalls.

She instead decided to sell them and other unwanted goods via online platforms. Realising there was a need for a store like Blackbird Clothing Exchange, she opened it from her garage four weeks later.

“People could get value out of their (unwanted) goods and get something in return and it made it cheap and easy for families,” Pru says.

She started with children’s clothing, then added maternity wear and clothing for the whole family before opening the shopfront at Woody Point.

“We knew the day we moved in, it was too small,” she says laughing.

So, why did she take that leap of faith?

“I believed in it. I’ve always seen Blackbird as a need for thousands of families on the peninsula,” Pru says.

The business also offers free school uniforms and book supplies for families in need.

“It’s a shop that cares about helping the community,” she says.

“I can’t explain how wonderful this community is. It’s not just me, I’m just the conduit. It’s an army out there.”

If she does not stock what people need, she will do her best to source items for them using her contacts and online community.

Blackbird Clothing Exchange is, as the name suggests, an exchange program. People bring in their items and receive store credits for them. They are charged a small opening fee to kick things off.

If they are not shopping with credits, everything in store is $1.

“I don’t make a lot of money but I love it. It’s not about making money and being a big success, it makes me happy every day,” Pru says.

Demand has grown in the three years since she opened and she now has 10,000 followers on Facebook.

“About 70 per cent of our customers each day are new. It’s word of mouth,” she says.

“Other parents are seeing the value and telling their friends.”

In addition to this, every year she raises money to buy new school supplies, and before school starts, she hosts an open day when parents and carers can come in and fill booklists for free. This year, she even gave away a laptop.

“That’s a special one for me that I work really hard on every year,” Pru says.

She says she can relate to families struggling to cover back-to-school costs just after Christmas and wants to save them that stress.

The shop is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am-4pm and on Saturday from 9am-noon. It is at 100 Oxley Ave, Woody Point.

Spreading the word

Pru has launched a Go Fund Me page to raise $10,000 so the business can move to a new, bigger shop and cover the cost of a fit-out, racks, coat hangers, signage and incidentals.

A new site will give this community a place that is not just a second-hand clothing store. It will be a place that helps for no other reason than just because it can,” Pru says.

Television breakfast program Sunrise will be broadcasting weather updates from the Woody Point shop on March 22, giving Pru a chance to share her story and promote the fundraising campaign.

Visit blackbirdexchange.com.au or search Blackbird Clothing Exchange on Facebook.

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