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HomeLifestyleWhen opportunity knocks...Manly woman turns wardrobe into shop

When opportunity knocks…Manly woman turns wardrobe into shop

Faced with a growing mound of ‘good stuff’ and nowhere to donate it after many months of wardrobe sorting during lockdowns, Manly resident Mel Burgess decided to set up a second hand store of her own.  Introducing Manly’s newest eclectic wonder – Op for Change.

Photo: Kelly Black

Op for Change is a not for profit op shop that donates its earnings to local charities, Mel explains.

“When everything reopened I took my bags to charity shops and saw how overwhelmed they were with stuff, so when my donations got turned away, and knowing that I had some really great items, I started thinking about where these things could go.”

“I just thought imagine if I had my own space to do that, and the idea just stayed as an idea until I woke up one morning almost a year later with the project fully formed in my head.”

“I just thought imagine if I had my own space to do that, and the idea just stayed as an idea until I woke up one morning almost a year later with the project fully formed in my head. And I’ve got such strong values in terms of sustainability and recycling, and reducing waste, so it also aligned with all of those values.”

The store is a fully independent social enterprise, volunteer run and managed, and sees 100% of its profits (after operating expenses) going to local and community charities.

Owner and manager Mel says it’s important for locals to know that the profits from their donations and purchases are going directly to local organisations, and helping those not too far from them.

“I did all my research into every local charity I could find and made a list of them, so at any one time we feature two charities.”

“All of the money that we raise after operating expenses goes to the charities. So we will raise a certain amount and then I’ll split it evenly between them. Then we will start again with two new charities, and that will continue on for the life of the shop.”

Featured charity One Eighty. Photo: Kelly Black

Raising awareness and funds for two charities at a time, current recipients are Community Northern Beaches, and One Eighty (improving youth mental well-being), with the goal to support a number of organisations over the coming year.

Located on Pittwater Road, just along from the popular North Steyne Emporio Café, you would be forgiven for completely forgetting the shop was once the old white goods store. The space feels as though it has been stripped back, and the buildings’ features and old brickwork finally given a chance to breathe. There is certainly an old, welcoming and soulful ‘vibe’ as soon as you walk in.

“It’s such a nice little neighbourhood along here, and I think the people around here just feel like there are actually little shops moving in.”

“We feel like the area just feels so much more vibrant, and the community have been amazing.”

Photo: Kelly Black

Mel says Op for Change is more than just a place to purchase pre-loved items, and encourages locals to stop by and say hello.

“I wanted to bring a retail outlet to the local community that was not only sustainably and environmentally conscious but was welcoming and social too, a wonderful community space in Manly to shop, or just for people to come in for a browse and a chat.”

“It’s become a place where people sit down on the lounge, they come in and just open up; we have met the most incredible people since we opened.”

Photo: Kelly Black

“It’s funny, if you were standing in line to get a coffee, you wouldn’t speak to anyone, but it’s almost this thing when people come in here that you just get chatting.”

Mel and her team have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from the community, and how welcomed to the neighbourhood they have felt.

“It’s going so well, we have been completely embraced by the community.”

“We’ve only been open a few months, but it’s blown me away. We’ve had so many repeat customers.”

“When people hear what we are all about, they then get excited about donating something. People say I’ve had this jacket that I’ve been moving around with for 20 years and I need to get rid of it, but it has to go somewhere special. And we just feel really honoured that this is where people think is good enough to donate these items that they’ve loved.”

Inside the shop is three adjoining rooms offering clothes, jewellery, shoes, small home wares, and an eclectic fancy dress hire section!

Photo: Kelly Black

There is definitely something for everyone, Mel says, and lots of really interesting finds that they try hard to price fairly.

“Some people have come in out of curiosity that aren’t op-shoppers, and then go actually this is fun! And I think it de-stigmatises people who maybe didn’t consider themselves as op shoppers.”

“We’ve really tried to work hard on the pricing, we hand price everything. Right down to looking up individual labels and seeing what they’re going for, so we make sure everything is priced fairly.”

“It’s finding a balance, we are raising money for charity, but also want people to feel they’ve walked out with a bargain.”

Photo: Kelly Black

Op For Change
Shop 2, 199 Pittwater Road, Manly



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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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