Past & Present is one of those little gems that once you find, you are not sure how you missed it, but you also know that you'll be back time and time again. Located on Wey Hill, this shop is a treasure trove of beautiful, colourful, timeless toys for children of all ages. For me it evokes nostalgia and takes me back to an age where toys were something to be treasured and loved rather than discarded when the next new thing comes along. Like a bookshop, I find myself browsing and finding something new every time. When you visit, you'll find so much more than 'just' toys though, you'll also find some lovely little things for your home as well as hand painted products too!
One of the things I have personally purchased for a friends little girl was a reusable sticker book where you can peel the plastic stickers off anything - the parents were super pleased! You'll also find toys that will transport you back like spinnng tops and the one below...I can't explain it, but you will know it if you had one ;)
Here's a little bit more about the shop from Sarah.
The story behind P&P – My parents moved to Haslemere 20 odd years ago, while I was working abroad as a nanny for a holiday company. The shop has a long history in retail, firstly as the local dairy, then a café, poodle parlour and fancy dress hire we believe. When my parents moved here they opened the shop firstly to sell their own furniture that was no longer wanted after the move, my mother then went on to buy and sell second hand furniture and bric a brac. When I returned home from my time abroad, I began to make greetings cards to sell in the shop (they had hand painted wooden magnets on them, I’m sure there are still lots of fridges with them stuck on) and from there I started to make other items, clocks mirrors, bookends, which developed into the range of hand painted items I do now.
After a time the toy shop in Haslemere closed, a proper old fashioned toy shop (used to be opposite Woolies in the Haslemere Travel premises) and we saw an opportunity to change the business. Although we could never be like the shop that closed, we decided to stock small wooden toys and a few gift lines, evolving over the years to what we are now.
How do you decide what goes into the shop – For the toys, a product has be good quality, have real play value, appeal to both children and the adults buying it. As a qualified Nursery Nurse and having worked in education for a few years, I guess that reflects in some of the products we sell.
As for the gift lines, there are two criteria, do we like it and does it represent value for money?
Personal favourite – I think would have to be the Melissa & Doug Doorbell House (£21.95), a house with 4 lockable doors each with a key and its own doorbell which comes with 4 people coloured coded to match each door. It’s a fantastic toy that develops hand eye co-ordination, fine motor skills, counting and colour matching as well as imaginative play. We have one on the play table that children play can with, so we have seen first hand how it is played with and have listened to some brilliant stories being told !
Best sellers – Ever since we first stocking it the Pop Up Toy from Galt (£8) has been a constant best seller. It’s a very simple toy for aged 1 year and over, a block of wood with four different coloured peg people sitting in holes. These peg people bounce on concealed springs when pushed gently and when pushed hard will jump clear of the wooden block. The child then has to colour match the right hole to return the people into. Another toy that develops hand eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and colour matching.
Another best seller has to be the Pocket Kite (£4.95), a surprising large multi coloured parafoil type kite that comes in its own drawstring bag. The beauty of it is, having no poles, it quite literally can fit in your pocket and what’s more, it flies really easily – I’m surprised the skies over Haslemere aren’t full of them !
Why do children love our toys – We are under no illusion, most children wouldn’t choose to come here to spend their pocket money, there is another toy shop in town that is far more appealing to a child, and we can totally see the appeal. But wooden toys are toys that you grow to love, they are generally here to stay and become old faithfuls. As for the craft and activity kits we sell, we hope children like them for the content the kit has, the skills they encourage and the end product they achieve.
Do children ever test the toys – We have play table in the shop where children can sit and play while their parents shop. We keep it stocked with varied toys that we sell and it gives us good insights into what the children think of the toys. Right now we have Water Magic books from Galt (£5.95) and Reusable Puffy Sticker sets from Melissa & Doug (£3.45) as well as the Doorbell House. Other toys that we’ve had there are Melissa & Doug’s Latches Board (£17.95) and Beginner Pattern Blocks (£19.95) which are both brilliant toys and it’s only by seeing the children play with them we have realised their full play value.
What do I love about living in Haslemere – Living in Haslemere I love the beautiful countryside we are surrounded by and the fact that an hour in one direction and you are by the sea and an hour the other way and you are in London. I also love the sense of community and I think having the shop increases this for us, we have lots of wonderful, loyal and supportive customers, we have watched families grow up and have lots of customers we share a good chat with.
What does 2015 have in store for P & P – As the new year gets under way, I am starting the search for new products and stock for the shop, which is always exciting as well as frustrating as I have to be realistic and remember the size of the shop, we really can’t stock everything! I am also continually on the lookout for new items that I can add to the range of hand painted goods and at this time of year I like to add new designs. We are also going to spruce up the outside of the shop up this year, being on the main road the white paintwork really does take some abuse. As it is part of the house, we are very limited on what we can do to make the shop look like a shop, large plate glass windows just wouldn’t be in character with the house. Hopefully once people come inside they like what they see.
On a final note, it’s no secret that times are very difficult for small, independent retailers, not only do we have to share the market with the large multiples but more increasingly with the internet. Basically we can not compete, but instead we need to find a way to evolve our businesses, supplying products that customers want to buy “hands on” and at realistic high street prices. At Past & Present we would not be the business we are without the very loyal support of our customers, so huge thank you to you all. And on a personal note, Past & Present wouldn’t be what it is without mum / Jackie / the lady in the shop, she is the face of Past & Present and a tremendous support within a very busy home / work environment, thank you.
Address: Hindhead Road, Shottermill, Halsemere, Surrey, GU27 1LH
Children & Family Photography based in Haslemere
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