5 Tips on Finding Second-Hand Shops in Country Towns
When we started Storytellers Workshop one of our main goals was to be able to travel and collect treasures along the way. Exploring country towns and searching for second-hand furniture is one of our absolute joys in life and is something we would be doing even if we did not have a vintage business. We really just can’t help ourselves!
At the end of January, Branko and I set off on a ten day road trip. We started in Burra, South Australia, then headed to Broken Hill, New South Wales, then to Mildura, Victoria and finally back to Adelaide. This was the longest road trip we have ever been on in Australia and we LOVED every moment. From each main town we stayed in, we ventured out to other small nearby towns to explore and hunt for vintage goods. We documented our treasure hunting on Instagram stories and we had so much interest in the places we found, we thought we’d write a blog post about it! This post will be in two parts, in the second part we will share a little more about the actual stores that we found.
Other than Burra, Branko and I had never been to these places before; we had no expectations or even knew much about the towns we visited. We really love to see a place with our own eyes before we see it through Google images so we often do not do much research until we arrive. Keeping this in mind, we had absolutely no clue where the second hand stores would be, or even if we would find any at all. We learnt a great deal about how to find the true country second hand stores and we thought we’d share some of what we discovered with you!
Tip 1: Ask the Locals
This tip is our number one tip because we found so many op-shops and vintage stores this way, many of which you would only know about if you were a local. In the Airbnb homes we stayed at, we made sure to ask the host if they knew of any places to find pre-loved goods and each one of our hosts had a wealth of information to share. One even brought out a map and marked out directions to her favourite stores. But don’t just ask one person, when you arrive at your first store get chatting to shop keeper and ask if they know of anywhere else. They may know about a different place the first person you asked didn’t, and so on. In country towns you cannot solely rely on Google as many places aren’t on social media nor have a website. Most of the places we found were because we asked. If you aren’t having any luck with asking around, head to the tourist information centre and ask there. Generally you will find they will be able to point you in the right direction to get you started.
A magical second hand store we found in Saddlesworth, South Australia
One of my favourite finds from our trip was this original painting. Cats and plants make me happy! Found in Burra, South Australia
Tip 2: Country time is different to city time
One thing that we learnt the hard way is that rural country towns operate on completely different schedules than towns closer to the city. They’re very laid back with timing and sometimes (actually, a lot of the time) the shops aren’t open when they say they will be. We’ve noticed a pattern that many shops are closed from Sunday til about Tuesday. Saturdays are usually a good time to have a look, but you must start early as we often found places would be closed by about midday. This isn’t a rule though, and shops can open or close whenever they feel like it. If you time your trip to be in a certain town by mid week you should have more luck as Wednesday seemed to be the best day to go vintage hunting for us.
A used book store in Mildura, Victoria
This mirror still haunts our dreams, we wish we could have brought it home
Tip 3: If you see a closed sign, don’t despair!
Remember how I said that country time is different to city time? This also means shops have much more flexibility. Branko and I found an extraordinary second hand store in Broken Hill which was closed; we made a sure to check when it’d reopen so we could return to have a look. When we revisited the following day and it was still closed! We were heartbroken because it was our last morning in Broken Hill and we were about to embark on the three hour drive to Mildura. We sat in the car for a moment and I realised there was a phone number stuck to the shop door, we called the number and to our surprise, the owner answered and said she could meet us there in 10 minutes! Small towns really are small and the people can be so accommodating and friendly. Needless to say, this shop was a gold mine and we found some of our favourite pieces from the whole trip there!
Our vintage loot from Broken Hill, New South Wales
Cacti and vintage? A match made in heaven. We discovered this store in Broken Hill, New South Wales
Tip 4: Get your salvage on
Most towns will have a local tip and normally here you will also find a salvage yard where the public can purchase items that were destined for landfill. Though salvage yards are few and far between near the city nowadays (terribly sad, we know!) you can still find the true blue ones out in the country. We love salvage yards because you never know what you might find. Think of it like hard rubbish day all under the one roof- they can either be an incredible oasis filled with gems or they can literally be filled with rubbish, or maybe a bit of both. You just never know!
Wandering through a vintage warehouse filled with plants in Renmark, South Australia
Tip 5: Explore
Small towns are usually quite easy to navigate around. Most of the shops will be on the main street and once you get in the motion of scouring for vintage, you’ll develop the superpower of spotting an op-shop sign from a mile away. There may also be second hand stores just off the main street, hidden away down a side street. Go for a drive around and see if you can spot any - if you’re like us, the thrill of finding the stores is almost as exciting as finding the treasures themselves. And the golden rule is to never assume you have stumbled upon every store a town has to offer, we have been pleasantly surprised on numerous occasions after thinking we’d found everywhere there was to go.
An antique store we discovered off a side road in Mildura, Victoria
These tips can be applied no matter where you are travelling in Australia, whether it’s a day trip to a close by town or somewhere completely remote. There really are so many amazing places with hidden gems waiting to be uncovered out there!
Do you have any tips for finding op shops and second-hand stores? We’d love to know how you go about uncovering those treasure troves