As a kid, you knew Christmas or your birthday were coming soon when a trip to Stockton High Street to visit Leslie Brown’s toy shop featured in your weekend.
The store was a key place for the people of Stockton and its surroundings to go and find the perfect gift from what seemed like an Aladdin’s cave of amazing items packed from floor to ceiling.
From my visits I remember the model train clattering its way around the ceiling, and always seeming to bump into a friend who had a similar birthday to me, there picking something with his parents.
But what is the history of this Stockton toy store?
Regularly regarded as one of the most missed shops on Stockton High Street, Leslie Brown’s was a staple for almost 45 years.
It opened its doors in 1947, shortly after the war, and finally closed in 1991 when the eponymous owner Leslie Brown retired.
It brought sadness to many who regularly visited the shop for toys, as well as the latest records which could be found just inside the entrance.
Towards the rear of the shop, as well as upstairs, were all the latest toys carefully curated to bring awe and wonder to young visitors.
For a while Leslie Brown’s operated primarily as a record shop, with the ‘His Master’s Voice’ (later HMV) titles displayed upstairs.
Later, as part of the Toymaster chain, Leslie Brown’s was often compared to Romer Parrish on Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough – a similar haven for youngsters looking for the latest toys.
Perhaps ominously, Toys ‘R’ Us opened their flagship store at Teesside Park shortly after Leslie Brown’s closed, bringing mass market appeal and consumerism to Teesside’s children.
Who Was Leslie Brown?
Leslie Brown was a local Stocktonian who opened his toy store with wife Renee in 1947.
He was a well-known character on the High Street, and as a member of the Happy Wanderers puppet team which put on displays and organized events to raise money for charity.
Mr Brown closed his toy shop in 1991 and died at the age of 87 in 1996.
What Happened to Leslie Brown’s Shop?
Following closure in 1991, the shop used by Leslie Brown’s at 95 High Street, Stockton, was used by different retailers, but none lasted as long as the iconic store.
Today, the premises is unrecognizable having been combined with Ché Bar to form a larger pub and eatery which does not retain anything of the exterior or interior familiar to kids of years gone by.