I had a revelation yesterday – I’ve never written about the Junk Shop, one of the last remaining corners of Old Greenwich. Time was the town was full of junk shops, ‘antique’ shops and secondhand bookshops; dusty corners in which treasures lurked (anyone who has ever managed to see inside a certain house in Crooms Hill will have seen the result of judicious ‘antique’-buying in the 1950s. It’s very, very rarely open, I’ll let you know if I ever find it is…) but today, with the demise of everywhere from the Spread Eagle to Stewart John and Marcet Books, the only real corners of eccentricity left are Greenwich Book Place, Halcyon Books and the Junk Shop. In the unlikely case that anyone who reads this doesn’t know where they are, the latter two are in the same parade in South Street; GBP is the lonely-looking tumbledown building in the middle of Creek Road.
But I digress. Today is about the Junk Shop, which is a true TARDIS of a place. It looks pretty small from the outside, with its jolly nonsense spilling out onto the pavement, and everything from WWII gas masks to frameless mirrors and broken chandeliers jumbled to the ceiling inside.
Don’t be fooled – this shop bulges out in pretty much every direction. If you go right to the back, and out through the back door, there’s a whole other building, full of the same old junk as everywhere else:
and a very creepy basement full of tribal masks – don’t go on a dark day – I was once with a rather sensitive pal who totally freaked out, complaining it was like being in a Hammer Horror movie of the 1970s. The photo below uses a flash which makes it look cosier than it is…
The yard outside is full of vintage pedal cars, American crests and rusty fireplaces, but if, instead of going back through the door, you go to what appears to be the outside loo (there is one of those, too), you’ll be confronted with a set of steps. Go down them to what looks like a teeny tiny room full of dusty books, and you’ll find it’s part of a warren of little stalls, many of which are taken up by the dealers displaced when the Village Market was closed (including the Bottle Shop.)
Wear old clothes – this stuff is very dusty. And don’t expect prices to be as old-fashioned as the wares – there are bargains to be had but quite a few of the prices are pretty steep for what they’re for. You can go back upstairs (where the prices are also variable – some excellent, some a bit of a shock) via some fabulously rickety stairs and find yourself back at the front of the shop.
There’s been an addition in the shop for a few months that I am very fond of – a little tea-room, complete with mismatched china, nice strong tea, wonderfully shabby furniture, low-lamps and reasonably-priced, yummy home made cake. I’ve been several times and forgotten to write about it. Such was much of last year.
If they remember to shut the back door (I usually end up doing it myself – I guess they keep it open to encourage people to visit the back, but in this weather it’s a bit parky) it can be very cosy and quiet, and there’s lots of odd, locally-related reading matter if you’re on your own. In the warmer days, there are seats outside the back door (just before Christmas there was a lovely little nativity scene on one of the outside tables).
The service is friendly and solicitous, if you can get it – I sat waiting in the room for fifteen minutes once, but despite the lights being on and the place being clearly ‘open’ no one turned up, and I couldn’t see anyone in the entire shop (I was probably wrong, but they must have been hiding), so I left, but that’s sort of part of the charm for me – part of that slightly anachronistic ‘old Greenwich eccentricity’ that is in such short supply these days. I almost get the feeling that had I served myself and left the cash no one would have minded.
It’s closed on odd days; I can’t remember which, but Thursday rings a bell.
There are so few places like the Junk Shop left in Greenwich these days – visit while you can.