The lakeside city has gained a reputation for having an excellent range of second-hand shops. Nobody we met could fully explain it, but one volunteer put it this way when he said, “Maybe Taupo is a very charitable town.”
We decided to make a weekend of it, leaving Hawke’s Bay early in the morning to drive over the Taupo Hills, treating ourselves to an overnight stay in a motel beside the lake at the end of our trawl. My son Alex, who is 18 and a keen op shopper, came along, too.
The Salvation Army Family Store
The first shop we visited was the Salvation Army Family Store—probably the largest op shop in Taupo—which has a massive range of good-quality merchandise. The number of shoppers checking out the shelves was astounding, and it was the same for every shop
Who would have thought that buying second-hand—or if you prefer, ‘pre-loved’—could be so popular? Once, you used to feel a bit down-and-out if you had to buy anything from a second-hand shop. Not anymore.
Is it a sign of the times? Not so much reflecting a lack of cashflow but rather, being aware of what a throwaway society we’ve become and the need to conserve and preserve what’s already available.
There’s also the thrill of finding something for next to nothing that you are tickled pink with and just can’t wait to get home and try on. I particularly enjoy finding things such as random paintings of a similar theme to hang on my walls.
I can never resist a rack of blue jeans either. Second-hand shoes not so much. There’s something a bit forlorn about these. Although, that said, I have found a few good pairs that I cherish. Most importantly, all these shops raise money for causes that support their community.
Today, our guiding principle is: love it or leave it, or buy it because it’s something needed for the house. With the amount of furniture and household goods in the Salvation Army Store, you could easily furnish a house or flat on a budget. Alex, who will go flatting in a year’s time, is on a lookout for such items.
Here, we found a decent coffee plunger, a wooden bread bin, and a sturdy thermos for our road trips. There was an oak table in need of restoration. My DIY guy, Glenn, tried to estimate whether it could fit in the back of the ute. He’s a dab hand at such projects and knew just how he’d fix it. In the end, he decided to leave it.
Care Op Shop
Next, we dropped into the Care Op shop and met the cheerful Ed who was running it that day. It too was an Aladdin’s cave of goodies.
He told us, “Care is a community-based educational charitable trust and is involved in animal rescue, too. We’ve re-homed over 500 animals in the last year, and that’s where the proceeds of this shop go.”
d tells us mini buses drive over from Hawke’s Bay especially to check out the op shops. Alex was on the hunt for a mortar and pestle for his cooking and there was a mortar but alas, no pestle, so his search continued.
Just up the street is the Hospice Shop, and stepping inside, we found another well-organised retail space with masses of items to keep us interested. All the money raised in this shop helps support local patients and their families.
I spotted a cute doll with big blue eyes and a hand-knitted outfit that I bought for my granddaughter Lexi. I needed a new ironing board and there were a few, but somehow, I reckon I’m better off buying a new one.
Interchurch Welfare Society's Op Shop
Alex had success at last in the op shop run by the Interchurch Welfare Society. He was pleased to come across a couple of shirts he liked, plus a suede jacket in mint condition and large enough to fit his tall frame. We noticed quite a few younger folk on the hunt for ball gowns and suits, so maybe this is the place to find such apparel.
Here, I found a suitcase for my next trip. Not too big, not too small and with zips in good working order and a colour (green) that won’t get lost on the baggage carousel. At $10, I thought it was a bargain.
“It’s very satisfying work. We have lots of fun and meet new people,” Betty, who is a volunteer here, says. “Since we began in 1973, we’ve raised $1,796,000 for the local community. ”
SPCA Op Shop
Upstairs at the SPCA Op Shop, there are shelves of books and comfy couches for plonking yourself down if all this shopping has made you tired. You might find a few gems among the collection.
Alex found a vintage watch with plenty of tick left for $10. All it needs is a link or two taken out. If you like contemporary fashion but don’t want to pay the earth for it, you’ll enjoy the Red Cross shop. Among racks of beautifully coordinated outfits, I meet Rose, who works there and who is an avid thrifter herself.
“We get a lot of labels such as Trelise Cooper, Annah Stretton, and (looking at Alex) have just sold a whole lot of Ben Sherman (a popular menswear label). It tends to sell very quickly,” Rose says.
By now, we’ve reached peak op shopping and are extremely satisfied with our car-boot load of purchases. It’s good to know that we’ve contributed to worthwhile community causes in a small way and met the dedicated volunteers who run these places.
Taupo’s opp shops
- Care Op Shop: 19 Totara St
- Lake Taupo Hospice Shop: 29 Totara St
- Salvation Army Family Store: 77 Spa Rd
- The Op Shop: 46 Titiraupenga St
- Red Cross Shop: 79 Heuheu St
- SPCA Op Shop: 32 Oruanui St