Recently, Great Aunt Ruth was in town for a week. We use capitals for her name because she is a mature and discerning lady. In addition to wining and dining and showing her what a fantastic town Nelson is, we helped her find out where heritage lace hides.
The Great Aunt thought that with our plethora of second-hand and antique shops there must be treasures awaiting discovery.
These shops are a sensory experience of sight, smell, sound and touch. I also have an "emotional" response to antique and second-hand shops and, thus, my rating system is called the Sensory Index.
I like second-hand shops because you might find a bargain, something you don't even know you needed and you are helping the environment by re-using items. Remember the saying "one person's trash is another person's treasure". It was with optimism and excitement that we headed out each day.
Our first stop was Eclectic, in Hardy St. The window display invited us in to hunt among a fantastic array of quirky items, particularly of the art deco era. Maria Henare, the owner, displays her objects beautifully and it is easy to dream about taking one of them home. She has antique lace and patiently answered questions fired at her by the Great Aunt.
Close by is the Nelson Hospice Shop in Bridge St. There is a huge selection of reasonably priced clothes, art, furniture and miscellaneous items. The staff are polite and all proceeds go towards supporting our local hospice. There was no lace, but we got the emotional "feel good" factor when we bought a bag of lemons.
I think of second-hand shops in the same way as Forest Gump thinks of life – a box of chocolates where you never know what you are going to get. With this in mind, we headed to bric a brac alley, also known as Vanguard St, where the SPCA, Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul are based.
These are great shops where you can purchase a lot for very little – and if it is not quite right when you get it home, it can be easily returned for the next person to discover. You don't get your cash back, though. Other places for bargains are the Nelson Recycle Centre, the Salvation Army and school fairs.
The SPCA shop scored well on the Sensory Index with its range, clean clothing and light and airy premises. No lace but, again, we did buy a couple of items because it made us feel happy to make a donation to the SPCA.
I thought we might find lace at Vintage Antiques, also in Vanguard St. It's the sort of shop which makes me think that there has to be an item hidden away waiting to be loved and I was very tempted by the refurbished 1970s chairs and vinyl covered stools.
We went to Savemart, a huge warehouse in Quarantine Rd. Savemart is jam-packed with clothing fortunately organised by size, colour and gender. Again, no vintage lace.
With less quantity, but more quality, we visited Black Cat Vintage in Annesbrook Rd, a charming shop whose website says: "From kitchenalia to crystal, clothes to china, you will find something beautiful and affordable to take home."
They're not wrong. Here, the dross has been sorted through and the items are desirable.
In a similar vein, Tula & Niles in Nile Street, has gorgeous "upcycled" items and vintage women's clothing for sale.
In addition to desirable objects for sale, I want a pleasant olfactory experience. I don't want fusty, old, camphor-infused, unwashed clothing and stale smells.
Sound, or lack of sound, is also important when I indulge in second-hand shopping. I prefer the staff to completely ignore me so that I can search quietly and fantasise about the origin of objects. I want to escape the loud mall music and have a pleasant daydream as I look.
Some second-hand shops are like department stores with furniture, books, clothing, hardware and kitchen items all in one place.
By far the biggest second-hand "store" is Trade Me. With 1.7 million-plus listings, this "op shop" scores well on the Sensory Index. There are no staff, no bad smells, good lighting and plenty of time to consider purchases. However, despite Trade Me having hundreds of listings for antique lace, the Great Aunt said she wanted the tactile experience of being able to touch and inspect before purchasing.
So it was out to Richmond Antiques, a place for the serious hunter who may be wanting an 18th century sterling silver sauce jug or Dalton flameware.
Next we went to Jimpa's Antiques in Waimea Rd, which is crammed with every treasure imaginable. And then, at a point of near exhaustion, I was able to stop and indulge my taste sense with a cup of coffee.
Using the Sensory Index to rate antique and second hand shops in Nelson, we decided that the best is Eclectic. The Great Aunt was happy with her purchases of antique lace and a few other goodies.
Elizabeth's best antique and second-hand shops, rated using the Sensory Index
(Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, Emotional response):
2. SPCA Shop
3. Tula & Niles