For many Melburnians, the first thing they want to know when passing through a suburb that's new to them is where to get a good coffee. For us, it's where to find pre-loved goods.
Here are our picks of Melbourne's best op shops, the ones that make crossing our metropolis worth it.
Vinnies - Ringwood
Recently renovated by the Red Design Group and now with double the previous amount of apparel (that's a LOT of clothes!), this branch of Vinnies is so huge you can easily while away an hour or more, as I did a few weeks ago. There's a curated vintage section, but plenty of gems on the regular racks make a thorough rummage rewarding. In the unlikely event that you don't find anything you like at Vinnies, head to the Salvos store just over the road.
Best finds: bright pink silk skirt by Sportscraft, $8; vintage Pucci-style print maxi-dress, $8.
A cheery rack at Vinnies Ringwood. Image Credit: Stylewilderness.
Brotherhood of St Laurence Community Stores - Brunswick & Moonee Ponds
While some op shops have gone a bit upmarket in recent years, the BSL remains an old-school op shopper's paradise, in terms of both aesthetics and prices. Huge floor space allows room for rock-bottom priced furniture (vintage dressing tables and wardrobes for $5 at the Moonee Ponds store), homewares and BSL's curated vintage range, 'Hunter Gatherer'. If you're looking for kitsch wall art, there's a good chance you'll find it at the Brunswick store. And wherever you are, you can browse and buy second-hand books online at Brotherhood Books.
Best finds: Mongolian embroidered boots, $8; Amco pants, $1 (Moonee Ponds); Afghani hall runner, $25 (Brunswick).
Savers - Various locations
It was a sad day when my nearest Savers in Dandenong closed and moved to Narre Warren, but with branches around the state, there's always a chance to drop in. Check out the two massive levels of bargains at the Frankston store on your way to the Mornington Peninsula, sort through the racks for retro hits at Brunswick's Sydney Road store, or make a stop at the Greensborough branch on the way back from a trip to St Andrews Market.
Best finds: too many to count (my friends have been known to give me Savers gift vouchers as birthday presents!).
Lots of Ops - Chapel Street
An op shopper's idea of heaven is when they find more than two shops within walking distance, which is why the Windsor end of Chapel Street is something of an op shop Mecca. Or should that be mecwa? Small enough to feel somewhat boutique, and with cute touches such as 'installations' made from tea pots or stacks of books, the mecwacare store is a browsing haven. Piles of National Geographic magazines and a solid selection of reading matter sit alongside bric-a-brac and racks of clothing which hide some vintage treasures. Not far away is Sacred Heart Mission, Prahran Mission and its adjoining Mission Cafe and the revamped Salvos store - and for what is ostensibly a limited time (but looks set to stay), there's the Pop Up Op Shop, which has been the lucky recipient of donations such as brand new Italian shoes and vintage designer gear.
Best find: Commemorative plate from Edward VII's coronation, $8 (mecwacare).
Editor's Note: Want more op shops? Check out round two of Melbourne's best op shops!