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! 🎁
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!
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 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?
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.
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.
The thing in its new home
It’s now cheering up my office shelves, hanging out with my collection of duller, government department mugs.
For now, London Carboot Online – The Shop is at 54 Church Road, Crystal Palace. Swing by before they close and pick up a bargain!