Childhood memories should be filled with happiness, laughter and experiences like walking through the doors of the world’s finest toy shop, Hamleys. As a little girl, I can remember visiting the store on a trip to London and thinking this is something out of fairy tales.
There were shelves upon shelves of toys over seven floors, the shop assistants were dressed in costumes demonstrating toys and loads of bubbles wafted through the store and down the escalators. Bubbles machines were popular then and so were stamps, I remember my sister got a set of Lion King ink stamps. I couldn’t get over the electric cars for children, and really wanted to drive around in the bright red mini Porsche but was a bit too big.
I wonder what Paige and Ethan will remember from their first trip to Hamleys at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town? That’s right, Hamleys is opening stores in Cape Town and Johannesburg next month!
As you may know, I love to hear the history and the behind the scenes of businesses and Hamleys has a very special story. When Hamleys first started selling toys in London way back in 1760, gas lights would not illuminate the city’s streets for another half a century. William Hamley filled his cramped Holborn shop with every toy he could find – the sort of toys that would make a child smile from ear to ear, the sort of toys that define a generation. His dream was to own the finest toy shop in the world. The store found incredible success over the years until the shop was forced into liquidation in 1931 during the economic depression. Hamleys was saved by a man who had ridden on the delivery vans as a boy, Walter Lines, who bought it and rebuilt its reputation. In 1938, he was rewarded with the Royal Warrant from Queen Mary. Her granddaughters, the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, both had Hamleys toys in their nursery.
Even being bombed five times during World War II did not stop Hamleys. Wearing tin hats, staff served at the shop entrance, rushing in to collect the toys then handing them over at the door. When Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, she still remembered the toys her grandmother had given her and in turn, gave Hamleys toys to her own children. Hamleys in its famous location at 188-196 Regent Street, London, England.
The toys may have changed, but if he were here today, we’re sure William Hamley would recognise the same delighted faces as he guided you round the shop he dreamt of as a boy.
Find out more about the store openings at Greenstore Mall in Johannesburg and the Cape Town V&A Waterfront on the Hamleys South Africa Facebook page and visit their website to see what you can expect.