Best little bookshop in Braamfontein

In the pink: Staff members Jennifer Tannahill and Tshepo Moselane at the quirky hospice shop in Braamfontein. (Madelene Cronje)

In the pink: Staff members Jennifer Tannahill and Tshepo Moselane at the quirky hospice shop in Braamfontein. (Madelene Cronje)

On the corner of Melle and Juta streets in Braamfontein, Johannesburg – smack in the centre of hipsterville – is a charity shop.

You would think it would bring the whole hip cachet of the area down in a musty, crammed mess. But the Wits Hospice Shop just might be the coolest thing in town.

With its bright, floor-to-ceiling window shopfront, raw wood shelving and a cashier’s counter made of stacked-up old books that protrude in all the right places, it is nowhere near stuffy. It’s not even vintage or retro. It’s just plain cool, clean and confident in its mission.

“We wanted to create a charity shop where we wanted to shop,” says Santie Snyman, retail manager for the Hospice shops in Braamfontein, Benmore Gardens and Orange Grove. “I think the reason it’s so beautiful is that we put so much love into it.”

The stores, which generate cash needed to support palliative care for the Soweto and Houghton hospices (the remainder comes from corporate funders), work purely on donations, which are then resold.

The Braamfontein shop, which opened in June, was put together on a “very small budget”, says Snyman. She and her team found a shopfitter who built their shelves on metal wheels at cost price (“we like the idea of a changing space,” Snyman says), they got Plascon to donate the paint, Bright Star Lighting to donate the lighting and a furniture shop to donate their funky, low-slung fabric couches and chairs.

Although the shop offers a small selection of clothes and homeware items, the best part about it – and what it is really mostly made up of – are the used books, which are carefully curated and neatly filed and range from art and travel tomes to history and fiction, along with an impressive collection of classics.

And the best part is that when you are buying books, you know it’s going to a good cause – something that the Wits Hospice Shop never loses sight of.

“We’re here to buy medication for people with terminal illnesses,” says Snyman. “If we can do that from having a beautiful bookshop – great. It’s not about credit or funkiness. What we do is pain management.”

And that’s a beautiful thing.

The Wits Hospice Shop is at 17 Melle Street, Braamfontein. To arrange for Hospice Wits to collect items from your home or workplace, call 011 728 1052. For more information, check out

Tanya Pampalone

Tanya Pampalone

Tanya Pampalone is the executive editor of the Mail & Guardian, where she oversees print and digital enterprise and narrative journalism projects including eBooks and special editions, such as the popular end of year and annual religion issues. Tanya occasionally lectures on media ethics and editorial independence at the Sol Plaatjie Institute at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. In 2012, she won South Africa's top journalism award, the Sikuvile, for creative writing and was a finalist in the feature writing category. In 2013, Tanya was selected as the Menell Media Fellow at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy in the United States. Currently, she is on the editorial board of the Menell Media Xchange.Tanya has more than 20 years experience living and working as a writer, columnist and editor for magazines, newspapers and online publications in the United States, the Czech Republic and South Africa. She has a BA in journalism from San Diego State University and a master's in writing from the University of San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Chimurenga's Power Money Sex, Cityscapes, Empire, Food and Home, Los Angeles Reader, Mail & Guardian, Maverick, Newsweek, Prognosis, San Francisco Examiner and, among others. Read more from Tanya Pampalone


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