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By Kath Gannaway

There are op shops…and there are OPPORTUNITY shops!

The opportunity to pick up a bargain, to discover some unique pieces of jewellery, grab a magazine to read during travels, or just to browse among the racks and the shelves.

For some tourists they’re the accidental discovery as they make their way between galleries, wineries, festivals and other events and attractions.

For die-hard op-shoppers however, they are ‘the destination’.

Almost every town or village in the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley has one or more opportunity shops supporting their local communities, schools, churches, hospitals and other worthy causes.

They plough hundreds of thousands of dollars back into local economies and provide an affordable alternative for anyone finding it hard to make ends meet…but they are also a growing attraction in their own right.

An op-shop bargain is no longer hidden away…it’s to be celebrated as a great buy, a rare find or a chance to reuse or recycle.

No two are the same and visitors just never know what they’ll discover, but a stand-out in the Yarra Ranges has to be The Mustard Tree Op-Shop and Cafe in Lilydale.

Tucked away at the end of an industrial laneway off John Street and run by the Lilydale Baptist Church, this gem of a shop is a little hidden away – but no shrinking violet!

It’s about retro, about creativity, about turning ordinary bits and pieces into magical decor – and about all sorts of sustainability.

With a cafe and a philosophy of giving to the community in a myriad of ways, The Mustard Tree is a must-visit for anyone planning an op-shop tour of the Yarra Ranges.

One of the unexpected consequences of popping into a local op-shop is that you can almost guarantee the staff – mostly local volunteers – will be able to let you in on some other ‘best of’ attractions – the best walk, the best cafe, the best lookout…the best of everything!

So those looking for a bit of retail therapy as part of their visit to the hills and valley townships shouldn’t walk past the local op-shop.

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