Wednesday, February 1, 2017


 Olindas clothing store -- named after the owner herself --  has been a landmark in the neighbourhood ever since John and I moved to Dunbar in the mid-1970s. The corner of 27th and Dunbar won't feel right without it.

Several days into the final sale, some shelves were already bare. Olinda always kept fabric on hand, and made clothes to order, as well as selling ready-made clothing. 

Shoppers were searching out deals, and the dressing rooms were in constant use on Tuesday when I went in.

Live in a neighbourhood long enough, and parts of it blend inextricably with your own life story. As a young woman, I went into Olindas -- the little clothing store that has been at the corner of 27th and Dunbar ever since I moved here in the mid-1970s -- and ordered a navy skirt and top for work. I shopped there often in the years that followed; Olindas was frequently the solution to the issue of what to get mom for the annual round of birthdays and Christmases. John bought me flannel nightgowns there; I bought him flannel pyjamas.

So it was a shock when I walked up to Dunbar a couple of days ago to see red-and-white "going out of business" signs plastered over Olindas' windows. The store was packed, and I had a cartload of groceries so I didn't go in, but I wanted to know what had happened. Soaring rents? Changing demographics? Olindas does cater to an older crowd, and maybe we're dying out. When I went back Tuesday to snoop, Olinda wasn't there, but the clerks reassured me the store had been doing well and could have continued. It was Olinda herself who decided that after running her store for 38 years, it was time to retire and relax.

I will miss her. Once, she lied for me. I had asked her to make John pyjamas for his coming birthday, but I knew he was thinking of ordering some for himself. "Can you think up a lie to put him off if he does come in?" I asked. When he showed up, she smoothly told him she didn't make pyjamas at that time of year. Olinda and I giggled about that for some time afterwards. At the Stong's annual plant sale, I'd see her stocking up on pansies or begonias, which she'd later plant in great swaths of colour on the boulevard beside her store, doing her bit to brighten the street. One of Olinda's creations -- a navy fleecy -- was one of the few things that accompanied mom all the way to extended care, and when she died, I gave her beautiful blue Olinda blouse with pearl buttons away to charity.

I admit that I sometimes hesitated to go into Olindas just to "look." Inevitably, the looking would lead to buying -- she was a good saleswoman, and her clothes, conservative but always stylish and pretty, were hard to resist. When I went in Tuesday, my only plan was to grill Olinda. Even though she wasn't there, I still somehow came out with three new pairs of pants.

Olinda knew her clients well -- they tended to be older women, quite conservative, but wanting stylish and pretty clothes. 

Over the years, I have brought home many of these bags with clothes from Olindas. This is my last.

Olindas' corner location  and longevity made it seem like an important part of the block.

1 comment:

  1. You definitely want to keep that bag! I hope you make a copy of your post and give it to's a wonderful tribute. Goodness, three pairs of pants, my dear, you are extravagant!