Toyworld/Chuan’s Kitchen – Hurstville, NSW

When I turned four, I was taken for a walk up the street to the local toy shop and allowed to choose a present. The shop was a Toyworld – you remember, one of those big, purple deals with the giant purple bear wearing a cap in the modern fashion.

Purple.

Purple.

As a brand, Toyworld’s history dates back to 1976, when parent company Associated Retailers Limited realised that name wouldn’t look as good in rainbow colours on a toyshop marquee. Toyworld was launched as the retail group’s toy arm at a time when toys themselves were about to be ripped from their ancient comfort zones and thrust into a golden age of action figures by the blockbuster success of Star Wars. Riding this phenomenon from the late 70s through the mid 80s on brands such as Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and Transformers, Toyworld changed the face of toy retailers in Australasia, emblazoning that happy purple bear on hobby, sport and toy shops everywhere. Toyworld itself isn’t too sure about its own legacy, as the embarrassingly evident indecisiveness on its website demonstrates.

A man and his ride, 1981. Image courtesy whiteirisbmx/OzBMX.com.au

A man and his ride, 1981. Image courtesy whiteirisbmx/OzBMX.com.au

They didn’t entirely abandon their sporting goods heritage, either. Plenty of kids would have unwrapped a BMX (can you wrap a BMX? wouldn’t that look awkward as hell?) in front of jealous friends on birthdays or jealous siblings at Xmas, completely unaware that a purple bear had profited from their joy. For me, the sporting goods section of Toyworld was the absolute no-go zone. Who cared about some cricket pads when there were NINJA TURTLES over here? Or what about down there, in that bargain bucket out the front, for five bucks each?

Why be a dick for, Egon?

Why be a dick for, Egon?

On that glorious February day, I chose as my present the three Ghostbusters I was missing (I already had Venkman). My logic: I was turning four, and now I would have four of them. It worked – before long, the Ghostbusters were a team once more, zapping those crazy rubber ghosts until I saw an ad for Batman figures on TV and coloured Venkman black (see pic) in the hope he’d suffice. He didn’t.

And so my direct association with Alf Broome’s Toyworld ended, but I never forgot it. It was a hard place to forget purely on a visual level; from the purple frontage to the bear to the giant LEGO logo plastered on a mysterious door beside the shop, the whole place was designed to be an assault on a child’s senses, and oh what a glorious assault it was.

But what I didn’t know – couldn’t have known – at the time was the turmoil within. By 1988, Hurstville Toyworld was under siege, with struggles on local, national and even global fronts. Behind that happy purple face was a saga of bitterness and commercial impotence in the face a formidable threat to the entire toy industry.

Leader, February 5 1991

Leader, February 5 1991

As the article says, Broome’s toy shop had been around since 1971, first as the sports and toy shop, and then as Toyworld. Broome says that business boomed until 1986, when local opposition (likely the nearby Westfield, which had been constructed in 1978) made inroads into his business. The immediate effect of this encroachment was evident in the bargain bins outside – $5 Ghostbuster figures is a sign of the times.

Then, as Broome puts it, a “ripper recession” devastated any chance of recovery in 1990, with severe storm damage that same year not helping matters. Another strange point of impact upon sales mentioned by Broome was construction of a ‘new plaza’ by local council. Hmm…I’ll have to look into that one.

Broome banked it all on a healthy Christmas ’90 trading period that never came. The recently refurbished Westfield offered stiff competition, and globally, toys had begun their decline in popularity with the rise of video games. Even with the 1988 advent of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, nothing could be done to stop the Nintendo/Sega tag-team, which by 1992 had all but ended the age of dedicated toy shops, relegating Barbies and He-Men to toy departments, or bigger chains like World 4 Kids. Rather than face the likelihood bankruptcy, Alf Broome chose to walk away.

That was 1991.

Damn that tree.

Damn that tree.

Today, the building still stands, despite the near constant construction and refurbishment of the area. Of course, it’s been standing there since 1899, and has probably seen more failure than you or I could ever imagine. The first post-Toyworld occupant was Belmontes Pizza Shop, and man was I ever bitter. I couldn’t believe the toy shop had gone, and pledged never to frequent the usurpers.

Is that purple in the adult shop?

Is that purple in the adult shop?

Chuan’s Kitchen, the current successor to a line of failed take-aways that has populated the site since Belmonte hit the bricks, was not open today even if I had wanted to spend cash there. The take-away might have enraged me, but what outright scandalised me as a child was that the mysterious door once adorned with that bright, colourful LEGO insignia had been replaced by an adult shop – as far from a kids toy shop as was commercially possible. Originally L.B. Williams’ Adult Book Exchange, today it’s the far more generic Hurstville Adult Shop.

Oh, so not 1899 BC?

Oh, so not 1899 BC?

Toyworld limps on, mostly in country locations. I swear, every country town I’ve ever visited has had a Toyworld. Why? And while I’m asking unanswerable questions: what was behind the door back when it had the LEGO sign on it? What did Alf Broome do next? Just who was L.B. Williams? Perhaps we’ll never know. But Alf, if you’ve Googled yourself and have ended up here, I want you to know something. Back in 1991 you may have been “the man in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong business”, but in 1989, when I went in and was gifted those Ghostbusters, your shop was the world to me. And this is just my story – imagine the number of kids who would have left that purple shop happier than they’d ever been. Heck, reader, it might have been YOU. That kind of thing might not have been able to pay rent, staff wages or stock prices, but it does guarantee your immortality, Alf.  You’re welcome.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL UPDATE:

It’s cool when things like this happen. As you’ve read above, I presented my case on the flimsiest bit of evidence, but Your Honour, I now present to the court…EXHIBIT B.

IMG_1773

When the building behind it was demolished, it allowed for a prime view of the back of Chuan’s Kitchen. Why should this matter? Let’s take a closer look…

IMG_1775

Oh, what’s that? I can’t quite make it out…CLOSER STILL!

IMG_1774

Boom. There it is. Today. You could go and see it right now. At some point in the Toyworld saga, they thought to put up this logo on the reverse side of their building. Why?

Perhaps at the time the Liquor Legends building wasn’t there, providing uninterrupted views of the beaming purple signage. Maybe the signwriters were doing a two-for-one deal and the owner was going to get his money’s worth, damn dammit. Or maybe the truth is far more sinister… Either way, it took the demolition of the bottle shop (all in the name of progress) to unearth this treasure. Within each seed, there is the promise of a flower. And within each death, no matter how big or small, there is always a new life. A new beginning.

Purple.

 

 

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38 responses

  1. Thanks for another insightful article. It has made me consider all the shops that were on the Forest Road of my childhood. I understand that it has only been in the last 12 months that the single remaining one from my youth, West End Shoes, closed.

    1. Yes you are correct. I tried to buy a pair of shoes for my husband in 2011 without him trying on and they werent accepting returns as they were closing. I think Pellegrino Hair is still holding on with the same couple, God bless them, somewhere nearby.

  2. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a Toyworld inside Westfield Hurstville as well…I think we’re Toys r us is today. Another two favourites stores on forest Road were American shoe Store and Silhouette Fashions.

    1. You are correct, there was a toy shop in the Westfield – but it wasn’t a Toyworld. We’ll be taking a look at it sooner than you think!

  3. I have been desperately trying to go for a trip down memory lane to investigate all the shops that existed inside westfield hurstville in the 80s and 90s before its demise. Not even westfield centre management themselves can provide some old pics of the shop fronts or a an old shop directory. Just to rattle off a few names off the top of my head: Power Station Records, Edels, Eastcoast, Mirror Mirror, Double Bay Clothing, witchcraft, Lauren’s, Arabesque, Inroads, American Shoe Store, Fays Shoes, Granny Mays…..those were the days

    1. It’s funny you should say that, Petta…

      1. Does this mean you are covering this very topic sometime soon?

  4. Petta I also remember Brash’s Music in there and buying a Masuda brand tv (which was Brashs brand of tv).

    As for the Toyworld at Hurstville, I had so many toys brought for me from there. But I remember going there and getting one of those monster punching puppets things, that was purple.

    1. Jade yes that’s right, I think Brashs replaced Power Station and was located just to the lest of where Priceline is now

  5. There was also a Venture store where Grace Bros/Myer now is in Westfields at Hurstville. The McDonalds with the blue laminate interior where the Mimosa Food Court now is.

    1. Yes, clearly remember going to the closing down sale of Venture. I would never have remembered the interior colours of McDonald’s though, so thanks for that! I don’t suppose you remember whether there was an American Shoe Store inside Westfield? I remember there was one out on Forest Rd just a couple of doors down to the left as you came out of the Westfield Entrance.

    2. Venture was where Toys R Us was, which was originally a Waltons store.

      1. Venture was waltons and was actually located where grace bros was and now myer is

      2. Actually what I said isn’t entirely correct, the old spot where waltons followed by venture was is actually the point where the centre was knocked out and extended out and over Park Road, so Grace Bros/myer is now located further out, along the The Avenue edge of the centre in the newest section of the centre created in 90/91. I worked this out after seeing the latest photos posted on the Hurstville Council’s website historical photo gallery…

      3. Would you be able to post the link to that gallery?

  6. sadly, I don’t remember this particular Toyworld store. Which means that I learnt something new today. As for the Toys R Us store in Hurstville Westfield, I do remember it being split over two levels for a few years (when the store first opened up). Their was escalators at the back of the store to go between levels. The space where the other level used to be is at the current Aldi store.

  7. See I don’t remember there ever been two levels, as I totally ignored toy stores from about 1986-2006 and only discovered Toys R Us after having my own kids! Aldi has only been around in recent times (about 4-5 years max), so was it Toys R Us directly prior to Aldi opening, or was it something else?

  8. it was two levels in the 1990’s only (can’t remember the exact year it was changed to the current one level). Before Aldi, there was a clothing store in that space called Glue, but that shop didn’t last long though.

  9. Yes it must have been one of those stores I never went into because that escapes my memory…

  10. I also remember the Toys R us being over 2 floors with the escalator that had a thing you could put your trolley on to go up to the second level. They had Parkard Bell brand computers on the bottom floor.

    Petra, I can’t remember there being an American Shoe Store inside Westfields. My mother would take me to the one in Forest Road every year to buy my school shoes, so it makes me think there mustn’t have been one inside Westfields.

    Of course there was also Pets Paradise in Westfield, where I got my dog from as a 10 year old

  11. Jade my mum confirmed there was an American Shoe Store inside Westfield roughly in the spot opposite where Sussan is currently. We are trying to piece together a list of defunct retailers which graced us with their presence in the 80s-mid 90s which made shopping at Hurstville Westfield worthwhile and the place had never been the same without (both before and after the new extension in 90/91). These are a few if anyone can help me out with adding to the list….of course American Shoe Store, InRoads, Lauren’s Boutique, Sportique, September Girl (I think this may have been the old name for Events, does anyone know?), of course Waltons & Venture, Mens Avenue, Strands, Edels, Essential Gear, Something Nice, Mirror Mirror, Witchcraft, Tie Rack, WestCo, Eastcoast, Double Bay Clothing Warehouse, DIO, Shoe Biz, Fays Shoes, Arabesque, Twins Boutique, Ooh La La, Select Design, Home Yardage, Granny Mays, Ted Sissian Chemist (when Joanne & the girls were there), Price Attack (when you could also have your hair cut there), Claudines Shoes, the old Delicatessen next to the fishmonger….

  12. Petta thanks for confirming about the American Shoe Store. I remember there being a clothes shop called “It”, but I cant remember if it was at Liverpool or Hurstville Westfields.

  13. Yes! I think you may be right….I have a vague recollection of this shop with a neon pink sign….you must be remembering right as I have never been to Liverpool Westfield. I can also add to the list: the recently departed Colorado, New York Boutique, HMV (previously in Strands location, now yet another $2 shop), Chandlers (which i believe was bought out by Betta), Jenny’s Handbags, the original normal Strandbags store, Syndicate Clothing and Red Rose (which lived in a strange location away from other ladies wear next to the donut shop in the fresh food area). Remember the original Millers Fashion Club which opened inside Westfield? They carried other labels too – it opened where EastCoast used to be and later became Part of Howard’s Storage and now Hot Dollar/Dollar King. I also remember we had an Espirit store near the current Katies.

  14. I also remember there being a Whats New store that sold similar things to Granny Mays. I remember Whats New having dancing flowers and coke cans in their window display. I still have my dancing coke that I brought from there.
    I can also remember from the time I was really young there being a shop where you walked under a big neon rainbow, but I cant remember the name of it. I think it was a hairdressers though. Later tonight I will ask my mother if she can remember any other shops.

  15. Cant say either of those trigger any memory. But on the topic of Granny May style shops, do you remember the one in the arcade that leads out to forest road near Priceline where they sold scratch n sniff stickers? Don’t suppose that is the what’s new you are referring to. They also had lucky dips for $1-2 in a basket at the front, and a trip up to WEstfield with my mum wasnt complete without a dig in that! I collected a whole lot of costume jewellery from that! Nice to find someone who is as passionate about this topic as I am. I am simultaneously trying to piece together the old days at Southgate Sylvania and Miranda. My husband thinks I am having a mid life crisis, but he grew up in Melbourne so he doesn’t have the same emotional attachment. I keep trying to explain that the shops of then just don’t compare to now in what they have to offer.

  16. Yes it is great to find someone else that is so into this!! From memory Whats New was on the incline on the way up to the food court. I cant remember the shop with the scratch n sniff stickers at all. I have never been to Southgate and as far as Miranda before it had the massive extension, I can barely remember. Although I did go there a lot as a young child.

  17. No I don’t remember What’s New at all…yes I don’t think I ever went to Miranda before the 92/93 extension either. Let me know if you think of any gems of memory from the old Hurstville days. Another thing I remembered was Intencity which was like a games parlour with a recording studio…I remember going there with my friend and recording us singing a Bananarama song…

  18. Intencity… I remember that. However, it didn’t last long at Hurstville. I used to go there often (I was young enough to enjoy it). I remember getting those tickets from out the machines in order to get prizes (ie – those little paper tickets you get once you finish a game, and choose prizes depending how many tickets you have). The prizes were quite cheap. I can’t remember the rates, buy I remember winning plenty t-shirts for next-to-nothing tickets.

    Don’t ask me why I remember this, but I remember Hey Hey its Saturday (can’t remember which cast members attended though) had a segment on Intencity. It was prior to its opening by a day or two. Queues to go in after this episode (and thus, Intencity’s opening) were big for the opening days.

    Once the hype gone, no one was there. I understand why it closed. Target is now in that space.

  19. There was also a cafe restaurant at the front….used to go there for Tandoori Chicken woodfire s Pizza. Yes Target was the next occupant of that space. They had self serve lollies in those days and you could fill a paper cup for $2.

  20. OMG of course Intencity. I used to go there quite a lot. I remember my younger cousin having a party there as well in the playgym climbing thing for the your children and the Chameleon ride as well.
    They also had a Playtime at Westfields as well, which was like a Timezone with the standard type of games of the time. Another of my cousin had a party there for his 10th birthday making it 1995. I have pictures of me there.

  21. jade, I don’t remember Playtime….we’re was it?

  22. I just asked my mother about Playtime and she said that she thinks it was literally across from where Intensity was and that it wasnt that big. Although in saying that her memory isnt brilliant, lol. I was thinking about other shops and things from Hurstville Westfields and I remember there been a small shop called Truecolor or something like that, the shop front of it slight jutted out. They sold wall posters and you could get your pictures put onto things such as tshirts, mugs etc. This was in the mid 90s, when this kind of thing was new. I remember the sign above the shop entrance being in large white uppercase letters.

  23. Hmmm can’t say I remember it. I do remember a shop that used to put transfers on shirts as that’s where I got my Duran Duran one back in 84-85. My grandma later ruined it by ironing it right across JT’s face. it was in that same arcade i mentioned before where the scratch n sniff s tickers were that goes from near the current Priceline down to Forest Road. I also remembered Can Can Lingerie that was around in the mid to late 90s. It was kind of next to wear Jacqui E is now or there abouts.

  24. I was also taken the very same Toy World to choose a present and coincidentally it was also my 4th birthday. That was in 1982. I chose one of those tool kits in a belt so you can take it everywhere. I still have it too. And I still wear it around town (OK I made those last two points up).

  25. Spacetacular. There was also an electronics shop owned by a German bloke. It was near where Best and Less is now. This shop later turned into a video movie rental place, where you paid an annual fee to rent their videos. Also before the extension, there was a park (Snowy Hill?) on top of the centre, and some tennis courts. When the centre first opened, it was split into zones, with each zone having it’s own name (eg. St George).

  26. Just remember the Copenhagen Ice Cream place in Westfields on the incline up from Forest Road. Used to love the hot chocolate sauce they’d put on their ice cream.

  27. Just back from a tour of the top end. To my amazement, even Katherine in outback NT still has a Toyworld!

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