I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published September 5th 2013
Shop Till You Drop At Maitland's Friendly Opportunity Shops
'One man's trash is another man's treasure.' It's one of those wise old saying that we've all heard hundreds of times before, and nowhere is it more true than in the wonderful world of op shopping. Also called thrift shops or charity stores, opportunity shops are undergoing an amazing renaissance around Australia that is elevating their dusty doilies and mismatched crockery to the pinnacle of urban retro cool.
Maitland is an op-shoppers' paradise.
Throughout history people have always worn second hand clothes and treasured pre-loved bric-a-brac. In families, younger siblings have long been the recipients of their older sisters' and brothers' hand-me-down clothes, while donating unwanted garments and household paraphernalia to the needy has been practiced by those who are more privileged. While once upon a time such benevolence was generally practiced informally, over the last several decades shops dedicated to selling pre-loved wares have sprung up in cities and towns, large and small, all around Australia. Usually run by well-known charities or church groups, and staffed by volunteers, all proceeds go back into the community, to the people who most need assistance.
These days, it's hard to imagine a world without op shops. Generally staffed by kindly older ladies, they're little rays of sunshine amidst the primarily drab and boring shopping experiences of the twenty-first century. Apart from large, wildly expensive department stores like David Jones and Myers, where else can you go that sells such a wide variety of goods? If you're lucky the ladies might even offer you a cuppa and a biscuit.
There are treasures waiting to be discovered in each of Maitland's opportunity shops
In my opinion Maitland would have to be one of Australia's top op-shopping destinations. With a colonial history dating back almost two hundred years and innumerable gorgeous old buildings, it's the perfect spot to go trawling for pre-loved treasure. Despite its steadily-growing population and location just 35 kilometres from Newcastle, it maintains a laid-back friendly country vibe that makes a day of treasure-hunting a very happy experience. Whether you're truly down on your luck, a penny-pinching student, a lover of vintage fashion or simply hoping to find a good bargain, a day spent in lovely Maitland is never in vain, and by shopping at these worthy charities you can be assured that you're benefitting the town's most needy citizens. If you have any items at home which you no longer need, perhaps you could also pass these on to the stores, as you proceed on your op shopping odyssey.
Most of Maitland's opportunity shops are situated close to its CBD along historical High Street, the town's main street. Although it's quite long (a couple of kilometres, at least), provided you're reasonably fit, it's easy to walk from shop to shop as you hunt for precious pre-loved goodies. Following are a list of the famous op-shops along Maitland's main drag. At the end I've included a few shops from neighbouring areas which you may also want to visit while you're in the area.
Maitland Presbyterian Op Shop Situated at 501 High Street, the Maitland Presbyterian Op Shop has been serving the local community for around 26 years. Although it's only a relatively small shop, it's oozing with atmosphere and the volunteers who work there are absolutely lovely. The building was constructed in 1905 and contains all the heritage features that are typical of shop-fronts from that era. This lovely little shop is choc-a-block with all sorts of vintage delights including clothing, toys, bric-a-brac and books. Be sure not to miss it as it's a real gem.
Maitland Presbyterian Opportunity Shop
Maitland Red Cross Op Shop This lovely little op shop is situated centrally, on Maitland's pedestrian shopping mall. It's address is 386 High Street and it's very close to the picturesque banks of the Hunter River. Maitland's Red Cross Op Shop stocks an eclectic assortment of goodies including pre-loved clothes, loads of accessories, books and miscellaneous bric-a-brac. The friendly volunteers who work there will be more than happy to help you unearth some hidden treasures.
Maitland's Red Cross opportunity shop is one of the city's little gems
Maitland Lifeline Opportunity Shop This large shop is situated in a prominent position on the pedestrian mall, at the corner of High and Bourke Streets. Its huge floor space means that a wide range of second-hand goods can be stocked, including furniture. There's also a 'book nook', cards, heaps of clothing (for men, women and children), shoes, accessories, electrical goods, crockery, cards, craft supplies, bric-a-brac and much, much more. Due to the sheer size of this place you could easily spend an hour or two scouring its well-stocked shelves and racks.
Maitland's Lifeline Op Shop is situated in a large iconic building on the pedestrian mall.
Father Riley's Opportunity Shop
This large and atmospheric opportunity shop is situated in Maitland's old Burton Toyota showrooms at 250 High Street and is affiliated with 'Youth Off The Streets', a charity that works at helping young people in crisis. It stocks a terrific range of preloved wares such as clothes, shoes, accessories, kitchen utensils, stuffed toys and much, much more. Father Riley's Op Shop is also connected with Paraphernalia next door, which also stocks pre-loved goods, albeit more expensive antique items. To confirm their opening hours, call them on (02) 4933 4433 .
Two of the lovely volunteers at Father Riley's Op Shop.
You can easily spend a couple of hours trawling through the treasure at Father Riley's Op Shop.
Op Shop Haven Unlike Maitland's other op shops, Op Shop Haven is privately owned, but for the dedicated bargain-hunter or retro-lover it's still well worth a visit as its extremely well-presented and full of all kinds of cool stuff. For those on foot it's very easily accessible as it's at 318 High Street, just a short walk to the shopping mall .
Vinnie's Op Shop
I visited Maitland's op shops on a Saturday morning, and unfortunately by the time I got to this one it was shut. However, from what I could see from the outside, it's a very big place that looks as though it was also formerly a garage or car showroom. If the interior is fully stocked there must be all sorts of good stuff just waiting to be found. Vinnie's Op Shop is situated at 196 High Street, up at the far end of town. If you're on foot it's a bit of a walk but judging from the size of the premises, it will be well worth the effort.
Vinnies Op Shop Maitland
Other Opportunity Shops near Maitland
As I took the train to Maitland, and was walking between the shops on High Street, I wasn't able to easily venture any further afield. However, there are a few other shops which you may want to check out if you've got your own transport.
The Salvation Army, Shop 4-5, The Village, 1 Garnet Road, East Maitland.
Vinnies East Maitland, 99 High Street East Maitland.
Maitland Cancer Appeal Committee Linen Service, Shop 28, East Mall, Rutherford.
Op shopping in the country is heaps of fun and if you have the time and inclination, why not travel further afield with some like-minded friends, perhaps to Dungog, or up the valley to Scone or Denman? The great thing about op shopping away from major cities is that you don't have to compete with hordes of retro-loving trendies for the really cool stuff. In a nutshell, it's a win-win situation for everyone: the shops benefit from your patronage and you'll invariably find some special trinket or clothing item. Have fun...and happy treasure-hunting.