For 20 years Marie Beattie has been volunteering with Bloomhill op shops, and it’s still the same things that see her turn up every Thursday afternoon for her shift.

“I like the company of the ladies here,” Marie says, “we get along so well. And I like to be helpful, I do what has to be done.”

For the Thursday afternoon crew at Bloomhill on First Avenue afternoon tea is a feature. “Leanne brings in a big cake and we have cake and tea. I don’t need dinner when I get home.”

But, much as they clearly enjoy their time working together, it’s not just laughter and sponge cake.

Op Shop manager Sue Poultney says they work hard. She has managed the store for 17 years and for her it’s the volunteer staff at her shop that makes the difference to customers.

“I went to Kmart the other day,” Sue said. “It’s soulless. At the moment the shelves are empty. There’s no one to talk to and stuff on the floor because there’s no one to pick it up.”

Another difference is the stock. “If you see something you like in an op shop, buy it. If you don’t it won’t be there when you come back. Most items are one-offs, they’re unique.”

Marie says the customers are generally nice. “But you can’t walk in and say I want a pink shirt. You have to look through what’s on offer. We used to have a guy come in looking for a ¾ winter coat. I said to him, ‘This isn’t David Jones’.”

And it’s that difference which is at the heart of the op shops.

Sue says over the years things have changed dramatically and the old-fashioned idea of op shops is wrong. “The quality is much better. People are more aware that the op shops are supporting charities. We get really good donations.”

She loves the new light-filled shop, “It’s big enough we can sell all sorts of things”.

Sue said often people will be at the First Avenue and Aerodrome Road traffic lights and see a piece of furniture they like on display in front of the shop. “They phone when they get home to see if it’s still there, or drop in the next day. Often it will be gone, you have to be quick.”

The op shop is also making good use of Facebook Marketplace with its Bloomhill Op Shops Maroochydore page, gaining lots of enquiries and selling many things within hours of uploading them.

Everything that walks out the front door with a happy buyer comes in the front door, or the back door, with a donor. And the turnaround is fast with more stock needed all the time.

The engine room of the shop is a tiny room behind the counter where goods are priced and if there’s no immediate need in the shop put into boxes. As an item sells the hanger goes into the little room and is refilled from the appropriate box so the shelves are always full.

In terms of furniture although some comes in the back door they also order from the Distribution Centre in Kunda Park. If you have bigger items to donate call the Centre, they’ll come and pick them up from you then distribute them to the op shops.

Marie fills her shift working on the counter, tidying things on the racks and running around after customers giving advice and helping them find what they’re looking for… and maybe more.

Sue says, “Marie is a good up-seller.”

“If a man buys a pair of trousers she will say to him you need a shirt to go with that, and help him find the right one. Then she’ll find a tie, and maybe a pair of shoes. He’ll walk out with a whole outfit.”

Marie says a local businessman comes in for his white shirts, “we see him around the place in his shirts”. “And a chap bought his wedding suit here and he said if he was asked where he got it he was going to say Bloomhills on First.”

As volunteers, they all understand how important their work is.

“If we didn’t get the money there would be no help at Bloomhill. We try to make as much as we can,” Marie says.


- JAN RICHARDS

Photo caption: Marie Beattie loves helping out customers at the Bloomhill Maroochydore Op Shop in First Avenue.