New concept charity shop opens in Rīga

A new concept charity shop, Otra elpa, has opened in Rīga’s Berga bazārs retail complex.

The shop, at Marijas iela 13, allows individuals and organizations to donate clothing and other items. These donated goods will be available for purchase at a low cost. Locally made handicrafts by Latvian artists are also on the agenda.

The aim of the shop is to support the efforts of various philanthropic projects organized by the Rīga-based Partners in Ideas Fund (Ideju partneru fonds).

The idea for the store, said Manager Elīna Žagare, came to her after she had jumped off the treadmill of a secure job as a human resources manager. A period of soul-searching while backpacking around Europe and a pilgrimage in Spain led her to the idea that opening a charity shop in Latvia, similar to the dozens of charity shops she saw in London, would be her next step.

Otra elpa is the first local charity shop to open in Rīga. The international organizations Red Cross and Salvation Army have shops in Rīga but the concept for Otra elpa is more than merely the sale of second-hand clothes.

“We plan to have regular auctions of items donated by Latvian celebrities, so the store becomes much more than just a space for customers,” Žagare said. “Saturday mornings are envisaged as a creative workshop for kids and adults to create artwork from recycled materials. The items we plan to sell will be good quality, so the ‘feel’ in the store will be clean and inviting. We want our customers not to feel embarrassed that they’ve come to a second-hand store, [but] that recycled clothes can be ‘cool’ and stylish.”

The shop is also a performance space, a place to hang out and a place to feel welcome. Žagare said a few concerts are already in the pipeline, as are theater performances and auctions.

Sabīne Sīle, director of the Partners in Ideas Fund, said she has been surprised by the positive response toward the shop.

“During these times of economic crisis, people may not have the financial resources to support a charity but you can always donate goods that are no longer needed but may be of use to someone else,” she said.

Otra elpa will accept donations of any kind, Sīle said, but people wishing to give larger items or electrical goods should first contact the store. To make it easy to drop off donations store employees plan to make regular trips to certain pick-up points in Rīga, so people don’t have to venture into the center of town, Žagare said.

Žagare acknowledged the owners of Berga bazārs, Ieva Laukers and Aleksis Karlsons, for giving the Partners in Ideas Fund “a very good deal with regards to the rent for the store.”

In Latvia, Sīle added, charity work as been seen as separate from the business world and social entrepreneurship is a new concept.

“It is only now starting to be taught as a separate subject at university,” Sīle said. “Charity work is often done by enthusiasts who usually lack experience in business. We hope to bring this idea to Latvia and show others that a charity can also be self-sufficient.”

The Otra elpa shop is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 1-5 p.m. Saturdays. Persons wishing to donate goods or volunteer for the store may contact Žagare at

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

One thought on “New concept charity shop opens in Rīga

  1. Greetings from the Charity Store! At 10am there were people already at the door waiting to get in. We’re quickly running out of stock and invite those of you who are in Latvia to donate things that you no longer need. To make the donation process more convenient for you, we offer to transport the donation to the store., +371 28357783. P.S. Special thanks to Daina, Arnis and their children for volunteering and donating!

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