I’m no wheeler dealer. I don’t strike deals, push for discount or seek out bargains. I pay the advertised price and celebrate demurely (with my inside voice) if I feel I’ve received value for money. Strange then for me to be pushing a pensioner to cough up more for the espresso cups I was trying to pawn off on her!
It’s this shop, it has that effect. Sixteen tiny rooms crammed floor to ceiling, and then some, with relics from a bygone era – Eddi buys everything, and everything’s for sale.
She started the business thirty years ago, by accident she says, with a two rand box of junk. It’s grown since then, and although she has no online presence (she has an aversion to technology), Eddi distributes flyers offering cash for goods – which is how I came to be selling my family heirlooms on the streets of Kalk Bay. Not that I’d hit on hard times – this was me undercover, this was investigative journalism at its nerdiest.
Eddi is a stooped, ginger knot of wizened energy. Like a Karoo dust devil, she hurtles around the shop at warp speed and without incident, defying the natural laws of physics. She declines all requests for a photo and doesn’t have much to say about herself.
But she confidently shares with me her extensive knowledge of German porcelain, and the current global trend towards English bone-china. So sad that my Wiesenthal cups aren’t Royal Doulton…! I’d never had occasion to use them, and the trade was more for the experience than any financial gain, so we shook hands and the deal was done.
I wasn’t entirely surprised when I returned a few weeks later, to discover that there’d been an unexpected resurgence in the interest in German porcelain, and that my Wiesenthal was now worth a whack!
Gladys has the unenviable task of dusting this labyrinth of bygone loot.
She’s worked here forever and is the only one who can accurately decipher the prices on the little cards that flutter about the place with vague, hand written references – an entire shelf’s contents captured on one, tiny card.
There are no refunds at China Town, so check your goods carefully before you pay. I recently bought a Corningware coffee percolator and later discovered it had no innards, it was just the jug. Eddi wouldn’t refund my money, but was happy to exchange it for anything of equal value.
I visit China Town whenever I’m in Kalk Bay, I can’t resist, and I always find something I’d forgotten I really needed – mostly stuff I’d grown up using in my mum’s kitchen. They’re items that have stood the test of time, much like Eddi and her shop.
Each room carries a faded reminder of a time you once knew, of holidays with grandparents or your folks’ dodgy decor. It’s like stepping through a time warp – carefully though, one slip and the entire shop could shatter, sending shards of expensive German porcelain raining down upon the tourists below…!
At the end of the day, the only value that can really be attached to anything is how much you’re willing to pay for it. And that’s the secret to Eddi’s success: you’re not getting a bargain, or the steal of the century, but if there’s something you’d rather not live without, something you’ve been looking for EVERYWHERE… then Eddi’s your girl. Chances are, China Town will have it… or whatnot.