The Free Store has been open at 38 Ghuznee Street for 11 days now and word has certainly got out that there is such a thing as a free lunch.  The Free Store is due to shut up shop on Saturday this week so if you want to take or give to the project you have 5 more days.

There are a lot of ideas packed into this shop.  Part artwork, part social experiment the Free Store is part two of the Letting Space series that began with Popular Archeology: A Sound Archive.  One of the stated intentions of the project is to:

highlight the underground ‘free economy’ that redistributes produce and food around Wellington, [Kim Paton] is currently making a call to sellers of fresh produce, as well as to to cafes and supermarkets for their excess stock.

The logos of some of the participating businesses grace the chalkboard.

Stock comes in at variable times, feast or famine if you will.  But the observant and dare we say the needy, are discovering what time discarded cafe food is due to arrive and loitering ready to descend.  This makes for a challenging project for those volunteers who are staffing the shop.  I can imagine they are experiencing the business end of what must be a normal day for Downtown City Mission staff, although possibly with more hipsters.

So, what can you forage for? People have emerged clutching shampoo and potatoes.  One disheveled local painter emerged with a filled roll and a bag of coffee, he then plucked up the confidence to head across the road to drink the free wine at an art opening. Your intrepid reporter scored a battered pear, a bag of rocket, a coffee sack, some potatoes, two softdrinks and a piece of homemade banana cake (greedy perhaps).  Discontinued softdrinks, coffee sacks, crates of bruised bananas were arriving as we sat there and a photographer was documenting it all.

Our two cents worth for free? 

One: The Downtown City Mission has collection points for essentials if you would like to contribute to the underground free economy more often. The unemployment rate is expected to stay elevated until 2011, just sayin.

Two: On a more frugal chic note, if you missed out on the fabulous coffee sacks donated by Mojo you can head on down to the factory on the Waterfront and for a gold coin donation to the Neonatal Trust they are happy to give you their surplus sacks.  These can be transformed into corkboards, wallets, bags, weedblock/sheet mulch, homes for plants or stylish chair upholstery.  You could then participate in a different kind of underground economy with your very own pop-up shop (since when did we start saying ‘store’).

Photo credit: Murray Lloyd Photography