‘Top secret’ Kids Christmas Shoppe returns to Old Strathcona Antique Mall

Kids Christmas Shoppe

Betty Reitan, co-owner of the Old Strathcona Antique Mall in Edmonton, Alta. on Thursday July 25, 2013. The mall is reviving the popup Kids Christmas Shoppe in 2022 after a two year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Betty Reitan, co-owner of the Old Strathcona Antique Mall in Edmonton, Alta. on Thursday, July 25, 2013. The mall is reviving the popup Kids Christmas Shoppe in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young shoppers don’t have to depend so much on adults to check off their Christmas lists this year.

After a two-year hiatus, the popup Kids Christmas Shoppe is returning to the Old Strathcona Antique Mall in Edmonton, where three-year-olds to pre-teens can secretly buy their own presents ahead of the big December holiday.
Since older people face more significant health risks from COVID-19 infection, the mall paused the event in the earlier days of the pandemic, co-owner Betty Reitan said, adding that several customers have been missing the event ever since.And she knows where they’re coming from.

“As a grandmother who has received these gifts, I love them because I know that my grandson picked them out,” she said. “And the kids are so excited because they have something that they picked out themselves and their parents had nothing to do with it.”

With the help of Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation (GANG), a charity group supporting the Toronto-based Stephen Lewis Foundation, the mall cordons off a “top secret” section of the shopping area, where parents temporarily drop off their children with volunteer grandmas.

Parents register their children with the guardian grannies, who collect contact information and budget and gift recipient details, and then guide their young clients through the selection and purchase process before wrapping the gifts and contacting parents for pickup, GANG member Lorna Rogers said.

Available items in past years have run the gamut from sports equipment and collectables to scarves, costume jewellery and china.

But the real gift is the independence young shoppers get by choosing their own presents for loved ones.“I remember standing at the top of the stairs and watching kids run up with such excitement to get gifts their mums wouldn’t know about until Christmas morning,” she said. “Some children will take three minutes to choose something, and others will honestly take 20 minutes to pick out a gift. It’s like they have to see everything and really get the right thing.”

Many of the mall’s vendors stock the shelves for the Kids Christmas Shoppe, offering up their wares at marked-down prices ranging from $5 to $20 dollars, Reitan said, but the prices say nothing of the value.

“They are very generous with these kids,” Reitan said of the vendors. “I have seen the most amazing items in that shop that are way underpriced, like a beautiful china tea set — probably worth $50 — priced at $10 for a child.”

The mall also makes it easier for the kids by absorbing the GST, she added.

The Kids Christmas Shoppe runs on November 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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