When Lakeside Vintage at Burrill Lake opened its doors in August 2016, Donna Hill was over the moon. It was a dream many years in the making.
At the age of 25, Donna found herself with no home and no means of support as a first-time Mum to a premature baby. She lived in her car until she could find crisis accommodation. It was a tough time, and as a means to survive she collected old furniture and bric-a-brac, cleaned them up, painted them and sold them. “That’s when I realised my passion for old things and I’ve done it ever since!”
She later met her current partner, had a son, and they bought a sweet cottage in Burrill Lake, perfect for her retro and vintage décor collected on a budget and lovingly restored.
But it was Donna’s son-in-law Chris Beverly who realised her dream. Without telling Donna, he found the little shop, made enquiries to find the owner, discussed the state of the building and negotiated the rent.
“Chris came to my house unexpectedly one afternoon, knocked on the door and excitedly announced, ‘Donna, I’ve got you a shop!'” Donna was confused. “A shop! What do you mean, you’ve got me a shop?’
“So he drove me around the corner, pulled up, shone his headlights on the shop, held up the keys and jingled them. I couldn’t believe it, and I sat there and cried!”
The tiny building was originally the office for a car sales yard. Then it became the Pigeon House Opportunity Shop, where everything was priced at ten or twenty cents. When Donna took over, it had been empty for over ten years. Most of the windows were smashed, the back wall had rotted away, the eaves had fallen down, the carport had collapsed, the tiles had come off in the bathroom and it was full of debris.
Donna’s husband Darren did all the structural work while she stripped the old wallpaper and painted the building. Always resourceful, old wardrobe doors were turned into painted signs. Giving the shop a new lease of life was very rewarding for Donna, and for locals with fond memories of the little old shop from years ago.
Before Donna opened her shop, she’d run a successful fashion business called Pink Parties for 14 years. During that time, she became frustrated at how perfectly useful and beautiful old things were being thrown away by people.
“The love for old wares is just in my blood. Having this little shop has allowed me to work at my true passion,” says a grateful Donna.
“People come into my shop and exclaim over something that has caught their attention. They start chatting about their memories of times gone by and because the shop is so small, everyone joins the conversation. We all end up having a good laugh together.”
Old things appeal to Donna – the colours, the patina, the worn and chippy paint that speak of a well-used life. “I’ve always loved odd chairs, old furniture and interesting bric-a-brac. It’s a great way to furnish a home when you don’t have much income, and it means less wasted resources.
“Some would say I’m a hoarder – but I’m more practical than that. I sell what I don’t need or can’t fit into my little cottage. I enjoy seeing old things going to a new home where they’ll be loved and appreciated.”
Donna specialises mainly in old farmhouse kitchenalia, and you’ll find 100 per cent wool blankets which are great for caravans, or to cut up to make children’s clothing and toys.
There’s a lovely selection of linen, embroidered and crocheted doilies and tablecloths and for those who love to bake, there is a large selection of aluminium baking pans of all shapes and sizes. Vintage caravan owners and campers will be spoilt for choice with a great range of vintage plastics.
Donna is constantly updating an online catalogue on Instagram, which keeps her business going through Winter when tourism drops off.
Lakeside Vintage and the award-winning fish and chip shop next door are mutually supportive – Donna has outdoor bench seats set up just outside her shop with a view of the lake where you can bring your fish and chips and sit and watch the baby ducks.
Lakeside Vintage on the Princes Highway at Burrill Lake opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am till 2 pm, and on Monday and Thursday during school holidays. Donna can take your details and hunt special things down for you as she gathers her treasures for the shop.