Friday, June 26, 2009

"Charity Shopping and the Thrift Lifestyle"

Do any of you read the British Country Living magazine? It is truly a beautiful publication, and though I don't buy it often, every now and then there's an issue so gorgeous I must (the June one is devoted to roses). For one thing, there is a feature on a Victorian railway station that was converted into a home, with the former railroad tracks now the site of a garden! But another tiny item in the issue is what really caught my eye. Titled "Eco Chic," it says this: "Britain is the developed world's largest market for secondhand clothes - charity shop sales are currently worth 550 million pounds a year and there are 7,000 charity outlets. 'Charity Shopping and the Thrift Lifestyle' by Lettice Wilkinson recommends the best, including those with tearooms. What better way to spend an afternoon?"

Thrift store tearooms? Excuse me? Well, the publisher (Marion Boyars) was kind enough to send a review copy, and I must say I absolutely love this book and the concept behind it. First, some vocabulary: What we call "thrift shops" to the Brits are "charity shops" and to the Aussies are "op shops" ("op" for "opportunity"). I've never heard of a guidebook to thrift stores, but what a marvelous idea! For a chapter on the Hospices of Hope Tearooms in Otford, Kent, the author describes the layout of the building, the array of goods for sale, and the variety of tearoom offerings: "Shortbread biscuits are presented in boiled sweet jars and under net-covered baskets at the counter. Homemade sponge cakes, loaves and flapjacks are kept chilled in a display-case fridge built in to the side of the counter, and a further tall, freestanding fridge opposite keeps the cafe well stocked with confectionary. Whole cakes and quiches are wrapped in cling film and stored in view with great care and efficiency."

Photos are included for a good many of the shops, and Wilkinson writes her reviews with all the care and precision of a good restaurant critic. She describes the clothes at the Scarlet, St. Clare Hospice: "There is nothing that is not absolutely contemporary and no more than a couple of seasons behind from their brand shops. There are no unconventional pieces or vintage garments and nothing is old enough to look at all scruffy or particularly worn." She also discusses prices and the quality of the employees (often volunteers), and I can just imagine the British women marking up their books before making their charity shop rounds. If only we had such a useful volume here in Georgia! Just curious: How many of you would consider shopping at a thrift store with a tearoom? I know I'd love to!


  1. fabulous idea. i already shop at thrift shops so a tearoom would be an added bonus.

  2. I broke down and subscribed to the British Country Living last year. Haven't regretted it for a minute!
    Seems that the UK mags have much more content - as opposed to ours which are mostly adds.
    Thrift stores are far and few between here in Mass. but I do stop in frequently to the ones that are here.
    Enjoy your blog so much,
    thank you for all your great postings,

  3. I did visit a shop in Conyers that was a boutique (fabulous hats, dresses, etc.) and tea room. I would be happy to visit a combination thrift shop/tea room. Tea and bargains - what could be better?

  4. I'm so pleased that our tea shop had a good write up. Its actually one of our oldest shops and the tiny attic above was our original "Head Office".
    If anybody is ever in this part of Kent its well worth a visit. The cream teas are delicious, but if you'd like lunch it may be an idea to book a table.

  5. What a concept, but the last time I was at our local Antique Market on Temple, they said someone had come to them about putting a tea room in there! (Could we have a Brit in the hood?) LOL!!!

  6. It has been more years than I am willing to admit since I visited England but I do recall walking into a number of thrift shops, even in trendy areas. Thinking back, I don't think the idea of a secondhand or thrift shop was something anyone was doing here (in the USA) at the time, only antique shops and the lowly flea markets. My grandfather-in-law had a junk store but it was truly junk and was a little before its time! It hadn't been elevated to the level you see today. It wasn't really accepted because only new things were valuable.
    By the way, I think a thrift/tea shop combo is a brilliant idea. I love second-hand, yard sales, thrift stores, estate sales and everything like that. I am a real sucker for a good yard sale.

  7. what a cool idea! thanks for sharing!! :)

  8. I bought a set of cream soup bowls (10 bowls and saucers)at an Oxfam thrift shop in Hampstead,UK in 2007. Spent about a third of of what they are listed at on Replacements. Of couse I had to hold them in my lap for 10 more travel days every where I went!!

  9. What a timely post!
    We are planning a tea party/thrifting shop hop for the fall with several other shop in town. Now that I know it's a brit thing.....well, I may have to use this for a theme idea for advertising our shop hop!
    Thanks for sharing and I'm off to grab the mag!

  10. Great post, Angela, and that book is a great find. I used to love going into the Oxfam shops when I lived in England. When Tony and I moved from there to the US, we donated LOADS (i.e., everything) to them. A charity shop and a tearoom? I'm there!

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