28 Mai 2010 | Windhoek

Junk and art from days gone by at Otto's General Dealer

Somewhat hidden, in the backyard of the former Grüner Kranz Hotel in the southern parts of central Windhoek, you will find a general dealer: Otto's, owned by Christa Schemmer. Items which some would throw away because they are old or a bit frayed around the edges are seen as veritable gems by others. Especially for collectors the shop is a little paradise. Hundreds of old - but also new - decorated storage tins, books, old photos and postcards, embroidered textiles and much more is on offer. Anybody hunting for a very special gift will definitely strike gold here. There is also a table loaded with souvenirs.

Christa Schemmer opened her shop in 2007 in the Leather Connection Centre. "But I was simply running out of space and when I saw the advertisement that the banqueting hall of Grüner Kranz was available for rent, I went for it straightaway", she explains. Born and bred in Namibia, Christa studied biochemistry and was a university lecturer in South Africa for years. But she was also involved in research, which roused her interest in old things. "As a child I already wished for a museum of my own", she recalls with a smile, and somehow such a wish suits her. The old things are arranged with loving care in the large banqueting hall - it almost feels as if entering an apartment. In one of the corners, for example, an entire bathroom of yore has been set up, a little further you seem to have stepped into Grandma's kitchen. Not only LPs and singles are propped up against various music boxes, there is even the odd shellac record.
Visitors find a wide selection of everything their heart desires, and all of it in a very special shopping atmosphere to boot. The original decoration of the hall, dating back to 1906, has been preserved in all its splendour: not only the wooden panelling, the beams in the ceiling and the floor, but also the murals on the front and end walls.

It is absolutely enjoyable to browse through all the things for hours and revel in the past. This is also appreciated by Christa customers who come to the shop from far and wide. "The most popular items are milk churns, wooden boxes of any kind, old kitchen utensils, door and window frames, as well as coal and paraffin stoves".

Lodges come to shop at Otto's, too. The Gondwana Collection bought a number of accessories from Christa Schemmer for decorating its Roadhouse.
House clearances are the businesswoman's best source for old goods. She either takes them on commission or pays for them straightaway. "Pricing the popular pieces is a little tricky," she says. "I continue to learn every day and I get information from the web and in South Africa."
The connoisseur of old goods is assisted by two part-time employees who help with sales but also with repairing well-worn items.
The large counter looks just as you remember it from your childhood corner shop and there are even large jars with colourful sweets. If you feel like lingering a little longer at Otto's you'll find a cup of coffee, or a cooldrink and a light meal to sustain you, at the Cinnamon Café next to Otto's. Tables and chairs are available right in front of the shop. On Fridays various events are arranged at regular intervals, e.g. a dance. "Together with the café and the dance school which also adjoins the courtyard we try to arrange something worthwhile for our customers in the evening as well", says Christa Schemmer. "Naturally, Otto's is also open on these occasions."
Contact: Christa, 081-298 7560
Email: [email protected]

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