by CHRIS GILMORE

A much-loved recycled fashion and homewares store has opened its second location – and it’s set to benefit some of the Coast’s most vulnerable people. 

Independent op shop White Tigress and Co has been operating from Coolum since October, with a percentage of profits donated back to SunnyKids, a local charity that provides support for families suffering the adversity of domestic violence.

Now owner Christine Mai has opened a second White Tigress store, this time a recycled fashion boutique in Buderim, and it’s hopefully going to mean even larger contributions to SunnyKids.

“I have a goal with SunnyKids with what I would like to provide for them, so to do that I needed to expand,” Christine says. 

SunnyKids general manager Kathleen Hope says the generosity of Christine and the White Tigress team is invaluable to the charity.

“Christine had a real interest in giving back to those who had experienced domestic and family violence, and she had this dream of having a boutique shop as a way of doing that,” she says. “She wanted to partner with us if possible so that proceeds from what she brought in at the shop would contribute to the support services we have available on the ground, and of course that was something we agreed with.

“I met with Christine and we just had a bit of a chat about what her vision was, which was just amazing – her heart was really in the right place. We partnered together and she created the op shop that is in Coolum, and then this is now her sister boutique shop.” 

Christine says she is in awe of the work done by SunnyKids, which provides emergency accommodation and counselling to those in need.

“I was introduced to SunnyKids through DV Connect when I decided to do an op shop and support domestic violence victims,” she says. “I was thankfully introduced to Kathleen from SunnyKids and we connected straight away. 

“The organisation is just amazing and we could both see the vision. I’m just really grateful to be working with SunnyKids as they’re fantastic.” 

But the opening of the Buderim boutique was not without its hitches. It was due to open on Thursday, July 1, but was delayed because of the COVID lockdown until Saturday, July 3. Christine, however, saw a silver lining.  

“We sort of looked at it as a positive so we could do more finishing touches to give that better experience when people first come in,” she says.

Christine says the Buderim store has a different focus to the original Coolum store.  

“Buderim is our first sister store, our White Tigress boutique store – it’s for label lovers, fashion lovers,” she says. “Our Coolum store is for op shop lovers.” 

A single mother of three, Christine has called the Coast home for the past eight years after moving from Phillip Island in Victoria, and has worked in retail her whole life. 

“I started off at McDonald’s and I’ve been in retail since then,” she says. “It’s just something that I live and breathe. I’m very passionate about customer service and at White Tigress, we like to provide fantastic customer service and give people a full experience when they come into one of our shops, whether it’s the op shop or the boutique.

“We’re really proud to be supporting SunnyKids and after all the years in retail, just to be able to do something and know that you’re giving back to something that’s actually making a difference to people’s lives, that’s the biggest thing. It just makes you feel that job satisfaction on the next level.”

The new Buderim boutique is not the end of Christine’s plans for White Tigress expansion.

“This is my first one and I have a goal for one more,” she says. “I’d actually like to have a big warehouse-type store, with furniture and rows and rows. It’d be full op shop warehouse style and just really affordable, but White Tigress way.”

Christine will now split her time between the two stores. She has a team of five volunteers who run the Coolum op shop, while the Buderim boutique will be managed full-time by Portia Sullivan, who herself started as a volunteer at Coolum. Portia also looks after the marketing for both locations. 

And there’s a special behind-the-scenes helper, who unfortunately missed the opening of the Buderim store.

“My mum, my beautiful mother, she was going away so she wasn’t here for the opening, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do without my mum?’” Christine says. “She washes and irons everything for Coolum and Buderim. She did an amazing job before she went away of ironing absolutely everything and making sure everything was beautiful for our opening.”

So where does the White Tigress name come from?

“Our motto is ‘Courage, integrity, strength’,” Christine says. “I feel the image of the mumma tiger, she looks after her cubs … she’s powerful and protects us. It reminds us that we’re strong and can get through anything and support each other.”

Kathleen says SunnyKids would be more than happy to hear from other businesses interested in collaborating with the charity.

“Absolutely,” she says. “If there are more businesses that are wanting to partner with SunnyKids in this way, every little bit really does make a difference. I know that sounds like a cliche but we see how that makes a difference directly to people that we support, so we’re always open for that sort of collaboration.

“I’m just really excited for Christine, her heart is really in it. She’s put everything into both stores and she gives so much from it for us, so we’re so grateful.”

White Tigress and Co is at 8/24 Birtwill St, Coolum Beach (two doors up from Coles), and 5/47 Burnett St, Buderim (parking behind off Ballinger Rd). Visit whitetigressandco.com.au.