Sadness as historic Black Country toy store closes after almost a century

Dave Carter and Martyn Perry behind the counter at the Arcade toy store

The Arcade toy store in Dudley’s Fountain Arcade closed earlier this month after nearly 100 years in the town.

It is understood the business has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown.

The news comes less than 18 months after another famous boutique, Kirner Jewelers, closed its shop in the arcade. Kirner had been in Dudley for 164 years before it closed in October 2020.

In its heyday in the 1970s and 80s, the Arcade Toy Shop had two branches on opposite sides of the arcade and was famous for its rotating electric display of the latest Dinky and Corgi cars.

It underwent a major overhaul in 2015 as part of a £590,000 program to restore the town’s historic buildings.

Originally known as Woodworths, the Arcade Toy Shop was opened in 1925 by the Smith family, one of the first businesses in the new Fountain Arcade.

The store was restored to its 1920s glory as part of a Dudley Council scheme in 2015. Councilor Khurshid Ahmed pictured outside the building.

It was run by the Caswell family from 1947 to 2015, and Alan Caswell, who retired from the store seven years ago, said he was very saddened to see it go.

The shop was taken over by Dave Carter and Martyn Perry after Mr Caswell retired.

Woodworths originally had a chain of four stores, with branches also in Stourbridge, Lye and Wolverhampton.

The chain closed in 1967, but the Dudley shop was saved by Charles Caswell and Harry Harper.

Alan Caswell celebrating the Toy Store of the Year award in 1989

Mr Caswell had joined the shop in 1946, becoming manager the following year. Shortly after Woodworths closed, it reopened in a partnership with Harry Harper that kept the florist in the face.

Mr Caswell ran the shop with his wife Evelyn, taking full control in 1974. Their son Alan, who started working as a Saturday assistant at Woodworths in 1965, took over running the business at the end of the year. 1970. Alan was also one of the founders of the Toymaster Group, a buying consortium for independent toy retailers.

He also had a distribution deal with Cradley Heath-based Hawk Cycles, putting him in charge of seven counties.

The store won Toy Store of the Year in 1989.

Alan’s mother, Evelyn Caswell, left, working at the Arcade toy store in 1983

Alan Caswell told the Express & Star that the shop had been a big part of his life and he was very saddened to see it close.

“I was so happy in this store, I spent almost 50 years of my life there,” said Alan Caswell, who lives in Pattingham.

“The people of Dudley are the salt of the earth, I love Dudley and I’m really, really saddened to see him go.”

He said many of the clients he served in the years before he retired were the grandchildren of his first clients in the 1960s.

When he took over the shop, Mr Carter said he had fond memories of visiting the shop as a child.

“I can’t believe we now own the toy store we used to visit when we were kids,” he said.

“We had so many people come out and say how happy they were that this is still a toy store so they can carry on the tradition of buying toys for their kids and grandkids in town.”