Ruth Copeland visits the Nelson ReUse Shop, where everyone gets a real bargain.
It was with excited anticipation that I pulled up to the Nelson ReUse Shop off Pascoe St last week.
Off on a treasure hunt is how I always feel when I go there.
This day, like most days, I found it difficult to find a car park. The place was jam-packed with bargain hunters and I had to park on the road.
According to the managers, Mike Gregory and Murray Simms, the ReUse shops have become a bit of a tourist attraction. They've been flat out all summer with many Nelsonians taking their out-of-town guests there as "the place to go".
I spoke to Mike, a founding member, about the history of the Recycling Centre and ReUse shops.
"We got into this 17 years ago now," he told me. "A woman named Willi Borst and myself. We became aware of just how much waste was being landfilled and being passionate about environmental issues, we decided to do something about it. Willi was really active in setting up community meetings and driving the processes.
"The council came on board and in 1992 we asked the Nelson Environment Centre to be the umbrella organisation, and the Nelson Recycling Centre was born."
Murray has been operations manager since 1995 and has seen tremendous growth in the ReUse side of things since then.
"Since we opened the front ReUse Shop at 6 Vivian Place, we've seen the place blossom," he said.
"The front shop is a more upmarket premises, more like a huge second-hand shop. I think some people were too embarrassed to be hanging around the old reuse shop, but now they can browse in comfort.
"We have different items in the two different shops. Here in the front shop, we have clothing and shoes, jewellery, books and DVDs, certified electrical goods, toys, kitchenware and crockery and a lot of antiques and collectables. We run a tender each week on the collectables and you can pick up some amazing, unique items for a song.
"The back shop is more for hardware and larger household items like baths, showers and furniture. We have a great assortment of spare parts and raw materials back there too."
I decided to get an impression of the ReUse Shop "way of life" by speaking to a few of the shoppers.
I spotted Jesse Swain sitting in the toy corner, having a lovely time with some new dolls. I spoke to her mum, Kaye, about her reason for her trip that day.
"I'm a firm believer in the reuse concept and have always supported it," Kaye said.
"The ReUse Shop is great for toys and Lego. I like to circulate Jesse's toys regularly and there's always something to find here."
Another shopper, Sarah, told me, "I just love coming here, and I do at least once a week. I always have a sense of anticipation: `What will I find today?' Every time it's different and I always walk away feeling smug about the great bargain I've just got for next to nothing. I don't shop at regular shops any more. Why buy new for 20 or 50 times the price? I get a lot of my clothes here, kids' [clothes] too. The $5 bags are worth a sort through. What I don't use for my kids, I give away to friends and neighbours."
Tim was clearly enjoying his browsing. "I came in for a nosey on my way to the airport," he told me. "You never know what you might find.
"This is my idea of shopping. Everything is so cheap. I often find tools here, good quality too. There's always unique old stuff, which I love browsing through.
"Families cleaning out their old things bring it here so you can find lots of cool stuff from yesteryear."
I spotted a friend, Ruth, browsing through the clothing rack.
"I usually come here for something specific," she said. "Today I'm looking for props for my daughter's film project. I walk in with one thing in mind, and walk out with something completely different. I'm a sucker for china, and here I can indulge myself.
"I'm a compulsive recycler, you see. I drop off my stuff at the back shop, and buy from the front shop. I try not to buy the same things!
"It's a real retail hit. You can come and get a bunch of great items for $10. It used to be Nelson's best-kept secret and now everyone knows about it. Most of my friends come here too."
As we were chatting, a midnight blue nightie in the lingerie chest caught my eye. I couldn't help myself. I started rummaging.
Going Green is a fortnightly column by members of the Nelson Environment Centre.