The Outer Cape’s swap shops are re-opening, and that’s welcome news for those whose anti-materialist leanings went unsatisfied during these long months of isolation. De-acquisitioning that odd lamp (still working), grandma’s tea set (missing just one cup), or picture frame (sans the artwork that it once adorned) is a relief to the minimalists among us. But even happier are those whose decorating style runs to the unmatched and the faintly antique. Here’s a report, highlighting finds of the week from Wellfleet, Eastham, and Truro.
(Although the automated voice on the phone says it is open, the Provincetown swap shop remains closed, according to the town’s website. The DPW did not return calls asking about the reasons and outlook.)
It was once Town Moderator Dan Silverman’s house. The Wellfleet swap shop now sits on a little hill with strategic views of the rest of the transfer station. The dump’s “anchor store,” as summer worker Lenny Federico refers to it, looks like nothing more than a weathered shack. But through a window, a hint of its peculiar allure can be discerned: a random assortment of vases, cutlery, furniture, and assorted items inexperienced collectors might call dreck.
Inside, the once overflowing shelves now look lonely, furnished with significantly fewer items than in previous years. Like the other swap shops, Wellfleet’s was emptied and cleaned after the peak of the Covid outbreak, so the inventory is just beginning to be rebuilt. Still, the snow skis straddling the rafters and the out-of-season snowman mugs provide a homey ambience.
The items in stock are not what make the swap shop special. Bethia Brehmer, a longtime volunteer here, says that the swap shop is a meeting place and a home for the community. Here is where she meets her favorite people.
One item that was recently dropped off is a testament to the oddities assembled at the Wellfleet swap shop: a large, vintage branding iron with the letter “S.”
The swap shop is the building that visitors first encounter when entering the Eastham transfer station. A conglomeration of three connected shacks, the swap shop here resembles a festive marketplace with different stations. Not only is the shingled outside plastered with welcoming signs, but every beam, post, and rafter is covered by a variety of posters touting everything from beach destinations to bygone political figures.
The lighthearted look of the place belies the value contained inside. Joanie Bakunas, a swap shop volunteer and a visiting nurse, says the swap has supplied blankets and home necessities to many of her patients. It’s a place, she says, that “makes a lot of people go away happy.”
Sitting on a table outside the main shack was a group of nine archery trophies that ranged from 1st to 3rd place. There were initially 14 in the collection. But one swap shop customer had already brought five of them home. Perfect if you’re organizing your own archery tournament, though some might just like the sporty look.
“The swap shop saves lives,” said Elizabeth Yingling while recounting the story of a man who would frequent the Truro swap shop as a way to deal with family difficulties at home. “If not here, then where would he go?”
The Truro swap shop, although more sparsely merchandised than the other outer Cape swap shops, is a well-loved gathering spot. It is also well organized. Three chrome clothing racks create an island of clothes in the center of the shack, leaving open space all around for other items.
The ordinary-looking gray shed is actually a treasure box where books, trinkets, and sometimes even canned food can be had, easing the burden on Truro residents without money to spare.
This swap shop, too, is home to some peculiar finds. For example, pictured below is a miniature chef pig. Perchance a welcome visitor to your next soirée?
Swap Shop Days and Times
Wellfleet: Open Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday 8 a.m. to 12 noon
Eastham: Open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Truro: Saturday through Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.