Note the great scarf. Chris is also a great op shopper
Some people can't walk past a pub, or a TAB without ducking inside. I'm like that with op shops.
It is an addiction but at least a positive one in some ways. It is a form of sustainability and the money goes towards the community. And at a personal level it means that even when money is tight I can still enjoy a shopping spree or three.
Trouble is that a lot of Melbourne opportunity shops are really getting incredibly overpriced especially in the eastern suburbs. Country ones
, not so.
Some suburban op shops seem to be losing touch with reality. New clothes are really cheap out there, especially during sales and if you know where to shop.
So when I go into an op shop and see something like an awful Millers' top for $5 or more I am horrified. Which is why my new favourite op shop is the Alkira Op Shop in Box Hill.
Things have really changed here of late. It was always cheap but it was once also dark, dank, basement-like and cluttered.
Finding anything decent was a real battle and not worth the considerable effort.
More recently Chris Prandi has taken over the reins. She has been working at the shop for years but more recently she became the manager and this gave her the scope to apply for some outside funding.
She succeeded in this and being an op shopper herself she knew how to make money stretch.
Kind volunteers came in and got rid of the overhead pipes that made the place feel like a cave and the walls were spruced up with a coat of white paint.
Through websites like Gumtree Chris went in search of shop fittings. A lot of people gave freely or at a reasonable price. The op shop has become almost boutique like. Instead of clutter there are dedicated circular racks of clothing that are never overloaded.
There are excellent display walls for jewellery, handbags and shoes, but it is the prices that are the deal clencher.
There is an entire wall, for example, of paperback books for 20 cents each, irrespective of what they are.
After a trip to China
I had been dying to find a copy of Jung Chang's Wild Swans
, which explores the lives of three generations of Chinese women, and there it was for only 20 cents.
Women's trousers were $2 a pair. They were so cheap I didn't even bother trying them on. Luckily they fitted when I got them home and were good labels such as Country Road and Brown Sugar.
A linen dress for summer, that has obviously never been worn, set me back $5 but I know how much they are new.
I also bought a lovely bright and cheery red woollen throw rug that I will use to dress up a day bed. This was only $5.
There was also a startling yellow woven mat for $2 that looked like it could have been lifted straight from a print I bought of Grace Cossington Smith Door Into the Garden
. I plan to place it on the floor underneath it.
This is also where I have bought a number of great teapots for minuscule amounts. I like to use a few teapots as planters (see my article on op shopping for your garden
). There was also quite a bit of movie memorabilia at cheap prices. (sorry collectors, that is probably gone by now.)
Even though the Alkira op shop has been gentrifed Chris tells me that the prices will remain at pleb prices.
"It is nice to know that people cans till come in here and get a real bargain" she says.
You will probably need to park on the street outside or a side street as most of the parking in front of the building is reserved for the Alkira centre.
There is a flag outside when this op shop is open.
Opening hours can be a bit short and they are shut when Alkira is not running so it might be wise to ring first if you are coming a long way.
For your coffee or lunch drive down to the end of the same street and you end up at Aqualink which has a surprisingly good cafe. For details click here.
Or if you drive or walk the other way you are in the central Box Hill area where there are loads of opportunities for cheap shopping, food and otherwise. See my article on 6 Reasons to Visit Box Hill or for some other great reasons check out Richard Cornish's article from The Age.
I like donating my goods here as I know other customers are going to come in here and buy things for a bargain price. Little do they know what I really paid for them in the first place. But what goes around comes around.
To find out more about Alkira and the great work they do click here .