The 1964 guide to the top op shops of the south.
(Nice Busts! – Feature photo: Liz Breslin)
WALK IN WARDROBE – QUEENSTOWN
One of the very few upsides to living in a region where people move away all of the time is that those people often leave great clothes behind. Queenstown’s Walk in Wardrobe is like rummaging through your mate’s closet without the heartbreak of having to say goodbye. For donkey’s years, they’ve curated the best left-behind threads, washed them, pressed them and displayed them beautifully. There’s changing rooms, friendly staff, and the clothes are sorted (approximately) by style and colour. Always affordable, popping in “just for a look” is dangerous. You’re sure to leave with new ski pants and a designer dress.
And if you’re the one leaving? Sell your clothes to the Walk in Wardrobe. They’re fair, friendly and have a good eye for fashion. – BR
OVERFLOW – MAYFIELD
If you’re driving there from Geraldine and you get to the Panther’s Rock pub, you’ve gone too far. When it’s closed (Monday to Thursday at time of writing, but best to check their socials), you can be forgiven for driving straight past, but on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the veritable delights of Overflow literally, erm, overflows onto the street.
Don’t call it a secondhand shop, or an op shop, or a charity shop. It’s not. Overflow is an emporium, a treasure trove, a curated dream sequence. Owner Jan Howden (who may or may not still be looking for a buyer) has been in the business for around three decades, and is as savvy as she is kind. Which is to say, very.
“DO I REALLY NEED THOSE INCREDIBLE ACTUAL 40s SAILOR PANTS FOR $80?”
In the main building we find silk, pearls, Tupperware, temuka, tuxedos, taffeta, bone china, busts, scary dolls, textbooks from the 1920s and a handwritten essay about diphtheria in cattle. We do not make it upstairs to the formal dresses and furs. Next time, we tell ourselves. We have already been there an hour and a half, after all.
Out in the yard is a lounger made out of a freestanding bath. Vintage tools, planters, plenty of what if pieces. No wonder this place attracts both movie makers and busloads of curious tourists. The old Post Office next door is a vintage buyer’s delight (with the odd piece from the House of G slipping under the curatorial radar), a dizziness of dress shirts.
After two and a half hours we’re back by the till, discussing our purchases earnestly with the other people in line. Do I really need those incredible actual 40s sailor pants for $80? Of course I do. Do you really need to go specifically to Mayfield specifically to visit Overflow? Yes. Yes you do. – LB
HAPPINESS HOUSE – QUEENSTOWN
Set up by local lady Pat Bird in the 1980s, Happiness House is an invaluable resource for people in the Wakatipu. Recognising that mountain towns can be cold and isolated places, the community centre offers a cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat to anyone who needs it. They’ll help families access services when they need them and offer a hand and a smile to those who need it most.
Run by volunteers, Happiness House has an op shop which helps to fund the centre. Get an over- full basket of clothing for $15, a half basket is just $5, or keep yourself warm with blankets for under a tenner each. Excellent bargains, all for a very, very good cause. – BR
WASTEBUSTERS – WĀNAKA
It’s the best place to pick up imaginative DIY supplies. It’s full of students in the run-up to themed mufti days. It’s the social enterprise that then-Mayor, the Honourable Warren Cooper said was never going to last. (And that was twenty years ago. How did that prediction shape up for you, Wozza?) It is, of course, Wānaka Wastebusters. ‘Wasties,’ as locals call it, is owned by the community and one of its aims is to make the community a “resourceful, affordable and fun place to live in.” It is also a resourceful, affordable and fun place to shop in.
It is futile to think you can pop into Wasties for ten minutes on a lunch break to drop off your recycling and have a quick look. There’s no such thing as a quick look in their big barn retail space; ten minutes isn’t even enough time to bop your way down the clothes aisle to whatever tunes are playing. You’re going to want another ten for the books, more for the homewares, haberdashery and whatever’s lurking in the dress up cupboard. And that’s before you browse the yard. The space in front of the shop is set out with containers of furniture, sports gear, appliances and building stuff, as well as their depot for metal recycling, which is heralded by Luke Wilson’s deeply cool Haast’s Eagle sculpture made out of cutlery.
Behind and beside the shop, you also can peek at the rest of the recycling taking place. It’s affirming to be able to see this in action–it’s what the Wastebusters team calls “leading the way to zero waste.” They also do education in the community and local schools, and waste management for businesses and events. It’s being part of this bigger whole that really adds to the warm fuzzies of killer-bargain op shopping at Wasties. – LB
RIVERTON STEAMPUNK EMPORIA – RIVERTON, SOUTHLAND
Steampunk and secondhand shops go together like bloomers and penny farthing bicycles, and the Riverton Steampunk Emporia is the ultimate pairing of the two. Steampunk is a visual style that fuses, awesomely, science fiction with the aesthetics of the Victorian age of steam. There’s a whole culture around it, including cosplay, which involves dressing up like a cross between Tank Girl, the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes and Mary Shelley. The Riverton Steampunk Emporia has everything you need to put together a steampunk look for the ages: top hats, goggles, and what look like old wooden typesetting trays crammed with buttons, broaches, tiny gears, hat pins, and all manner of brassy bobbles. And for bargain hunters looking for treasures from the past, the place is bursting with vintage delights, from Royal Doulton china, to circa-1970s rice cookers, to vintage tea caddies, to a wealth of Royal Family-related ephemera (Lady Diana coffee mug, anyone?).– LW