One thing from London Carboot Online – The Shop

I’m buying one thing from every shop on the Crystal Palace triangle. This is the third thing.

Oh, hi. I’m buying one thing from every shop on the Crystal Palace triangle and writing about them here for the joy of it. 

This is the third thing from the third shop. It’s a timely reminder that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, and we can’t take any of it with us. Merry Christmas! 🎁

The shop

London Carboot Online – The Shop.

A shop name I love more with each consecutive non sequitur! Whenever I pass by, I think of Russ Hanneman on Silicon Valley putting “radio on the internet”. These guys have put car boot sales on the internet… and then pivoted to put them in a shop as well. It’s a fun concept, and several of my favourite things rolled into one!

Animated gif from the TV show Silicon Valley. Russ Hanneman is gesticulating and mouthing the words RADIO ON INTERNET. Which is also written as the caption on the gif.

In both internet and shop form, London Carboot salvages unknown strangers’ unwanted possessions through house clearances, and gives them a second life by selling them on at car boot prices.

Stock seems to turn around fast, so it rewards frequent visits to grab a characterful trinket or bargain bit of furniture, or just to pop in and puzzle over other people’s interior design taste.

The history of the business makes sense of its name. It started as a regular pitch at the capital’s car boot sales, went online-only in the pandemic, then – with boot sales proving slow to recover – moved into an empty unit on Church Road.

It’s the same unit that previously housed Crystal Palace’s very own FBI, Finlay’s Bureau of Investigation – a private eye and process server, which (by contrast) now operates solely online since its founders retired. FBI’s work may often have led to house clearances, so there’s some circularity here. 

Sadly though, after 2-3 years happily trading in this spot, London Carboot’s shop might be gone within months because the landlord is selling up. Clearance upon clearance. 

Shame. I have a fondness for this kind of place. About 22 years ago my wife and I bought our first furniture in Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays from a guy we called “Crystal Paul” (after his similar clearance shop). The shop’s long gone, but I found these old photos on Flickr:

The owner

The folks behind London Carboot Online are Philip (originally from Portugal) and Tamara (originally from Georgia). Their little girl was also there when I popped in, busy making drawings that were lovingly displayed in the office/till area (but not for sale).

I spoke to them briefly and they were grateful for the interest, generous with their time and instantly likeable. Here’s what I found out. 

  • Having started out doing house clearances, they now mostly buy stock from other house clearers instead
  • The online element is mostly through their Instagram and Facebook accounts
  • The shop also serves as a workshop. Increasingly, Phillip is restoring and upcycling, even making brand new things out of salvaged materials – giving the stuff people leave behind a new life and keeping it out of landfill
  • They miss the camaraderie and community of boot sales but say the big ones all shrank from 1000s of dealers to a few hundred, and still aren’t bouncing back
  • They’re not sure yet what they will do after the landlord sells up. The rents around here are a big commitment. All a bit meta, isn’t it?
A table is being held together by grips, on a table with tools. Behind it is a bead curtain to a private area marked NO ENTRY
A bit of making in the making, in Philip’s workshop

The many things

“No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot. In my apartment I’ve sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I’ll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It’s a universal principle operating throughout the universe; moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.”

Philip K Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

There’s a fine line between filling our homes with treasured possessions, and letting the kipple take over. All of it outlives us in the end, so hooray for shops like this that help re-home as much of it as possible.

The difference between kipple and nonkipple is a highly subjective affair, so I had a good look around, to choose wisely.

On my visit, there was an abundance of cat-themed ornaments, teapots, serving dishes, gravy jugs and more. Phillip confirmed my suspicions that they were all from the same old cat-lady’s house. Here are just a couple of them.

These audio cassette drawers sparked nostalgia for me. I had some like these, filled mostly with Prince albums, copies of unsolicited mixtapes for girls I fancied, and compilations of the best of my parents’ record collection. 

Black plastic and wooden cassette tape drawers

But – like I said – the stock moves fast and these photos are already out of date, judging by the latest pics up on instagram

The one thing

I bought this happy little yellow mug guy, for £2.

A bright yellow, rounded mug with a smiley face and big feet. Its handle is like an arm, hand on hip.

My wife hates it. I can see her point.

The thing in its new home

It’s now cheering/cluttering up my office shelves, hanging out with my collection of duller (but more tasteful) government employer mugs. 

A bright yellow, rounded mug with a smiley face and big feet. Its handle is like an arm, hand on hip. It is among 3 other mugs - The Office of the Deputy Prime Minster, I Heart Croydon Tech, and GOV.UK. A toy robot is also on the shelf.

I plan to get a little plant to sit in it, something that will work well as its hair. A trip to The Vaults Collective or The Secret Garden might be in order early in the new year!

For now, London Carboot Online – The Shop is at 54 Church Road, Crystal Palace. Swing by before they close and pick up a bargain!

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