‘WARNING! NO plastic rubbish’, reads a sign outside Rob Roy Wooden Toys. The shop is located about seven miles from town in neighbouring Long Eaton, but I have made a special trip to see this indie, which makes and sells its own wooden toys. I walk in and receive a friendly
welcome from the owner, Robin Smith, who is sitting in a small workshop behind the counter, sanding the surface of a new wooden creation.
Although he is too busy making
toys to show me around, he isn’t too busy to chat and tell me about the shop and its history. 40 per cent of all the toys on
sale here are handmade and Smith tells me that the shop, which was passed down from his father, has
been in business for over 60 years. Personalised and bespoke wooden toys are part of the service. Although there are wooden
wares from the likes of Bigjigs, Le Toy Van and John Crane on display, as I browse it strikes me that I can’t distinguish between what was made here and what’s come from a supplier – the quality is the same. I ask if there would be anything suitable for a ten year-old. Smith says that, although ten is the age when kids tend to grow out of wooden toys, there are a few things he might like. I’m directed to a wooden bow and arrow by Hawkins Bazaar and some hand- crafted games sets. Verdict: A truly unique indie with a charming offering.
GEE DEE MODELS
JUST OUTSIDE the town centre is Gee Dee Models – an independent hobby shop, which was once a thriving chain. As I enter I see some flyers and posters for enthusiasts’ groups and get the feeling Gee Dee Models must be something of a destination for local hobbyists. I make my way upstairs – I was
impressed by Modelzone’s extensive range, but Gee Dee is a hobbyist’s paradise. Product is thoughtfully laid out, high and low, and the display cabinets are well presented. There are a wide variety of paints, adhesives and scenic materials spread throughout all areas of the shop. It’s a lot of fun to explore. The main atrium houses the till and the trains, which are nicely arranged on shelves and in display
19-21 HEATHCOAT STREET
cabinets, which feature busy scenes of trains snaking in and out of model villages, but they could use a little upkeep. There’s a wide offering of sets from Hornby, Bachman, Dapol and Peco. After lurking for quite a considerable time, the gentleman behind the counter asks if I need any help. After giving him the brief, he emerges from his desk and leads me over to the store’s miniscule starter section, which is compromised of some Airfix Starter kits. A little disappointing, but to be expected. Gee Dee is focused on the more experienced hobbyists. Verdict: A range to satisfy the most enthusiastic of hobbyists.
THE GROUND floor of the department store is home to a large toy area. John Lewis has recently increased its toy offering and the sizeable floor space has all the categories covered. Lego is a focus; there’s a full wall
and more dedicated to the brand. And Re:creation’s licensed lines are displayed next to a giant Lego man. The floor is well attended: I notice at least three staff on hand, who regularly offer help. I ask a lady for guidance.
Taking my requirements into account, she takes me over to the science shelves, starting with some John Lewis kits, the features of which she describes in good detail.
These are priced at £8 each and the suggestions – Horrible
Science by Galt, a Natural History Museum Excavation Kit from Great Gizmos and Interplay’s Trebuchet set – escalate in price. A conscientious effort from my guide. But, keen to see what else she’s got, I stare forward blankly. She leads me to an end of aisle display: “Well, if you don’t think he’d be interested in any of this, then there’s these Hexbugs,” she says. “What are they?” I ask. She tries to explain but I ask for a demo. “Unfortunately we aren’t allowed to open the packaging.” Although I’m disappointed at the lack of a demo for Hexbugs, it’s a great visit on the whole. Verdict: A lack of out-of-box product takes some fun out of the experience.