I've been thinking for a long time that Vancouver needs a Free Store, just like the most popular 'retail' store on the Gulf Island of Lasqueti. And now there it is, inside the old vault of a former dim sum warehouse in the 800 block of East Hastings.
The East Van Free Store is a community/art project hosted by the Red Gate Collective, with the whole point being actual social engagement (as opposed to virtual a la craigslist) and it's getting some media attention (CBC radio interview with Collective member Julia here).
Because really, it's hard to go into retail battle with a free store, a potential paradise for everyone from hoarders who will find no barriers to bingeing on stuff to minimalists who need to purge to feel normal, and everyone in between — including makers in need of raw materials.
A few gems — the truly useless, confounding items — make the Free Store Gallery, an educational/art feature of the islanders' community website.
A sampling of works made to comfort and discomfort: