Vintage toys at Three Potato Four, Newington Green

Vintage toys at Three Potato Four, Newington Green

WITH autumn weather providing a fresh challenge to parents struggling to keep up with their fast-growing tots, help from bespoke second-hand retailers will be welcome news to many.

Second-hand children’s goods, you might ask? Trendy period dresses and fashionable antique furniture perhaps, but many never even consider buying  used clothes and toys for their kids, though it makes perfect sense.

Younger siblings, relatives, neighbours and friends are often the grateful recipients of items that one child has grown out of, but that are still in good condition.

Yet there are occasions when casual exchanges won’t provide everything you might need for your child, and times when there’s no obvious person to whom to give the push-chair or book that your own family no longer needs. It is times like these when specialists are particularly useful. Hackney boasts a small clutch of such shops.

Merry Go Round in Clarence Road is a community institution that has been around for nearly 30 years. The shop sells a wide range of children’s goods, including quality clothes, toys, books, furniture and equipment.

Following an unexpected closure, it was taken over in September 2008 by Melanie Morley and Gary Beelders, largely in order to prevent the well-loved store from disappearing.

Though some of the stock is new, most is excellent quality second-hand. The sales work on an exchange or commission basis, with the sellers receiving a portion of the sale price when an item is sold. The goods are carefully selected and well displayed, distinguishing Merry Go Round well apart from a charity shop.

A sister shop – called Meadow – opened on Northwold Road in Stoke Newington in June of this year, much to the delight of local parents. Though the Stokey shop is smaller than its counterpart on Clarence Road, the quality of the items is just as high and the décor is that of a high-end boutique. Melanie is enthusiastic about the prospects of the new venture, noting that is has already become “very popular with local residents”.

The ethical bonus of buying used goods is something Melanie believes in strongly, and this is also an aspect of the shop that is popular with customers. “We think small steps can make a big difference to the good health of our planet,” she says.

Just a stone’s throw across the Hackney-Islington border, Three Potato Four on Newington Green is a children’s boutique that has been selling new and vintage children’s clothes and toys since October 2008. Here you’ll find an excellent collection of matchbox toys, classic Fisher-Price items from the 1970s and 1980s and wooden pieces.

Owner Genna Savastio explains that many parents are drawn to these toys by the nostalgia factor, but kids love them as well. Three Potato Four is spacious enough that children can play with toys while their parents browse the shelves and racks.

Demand for vintage items is high, and Genna will soon be selling online as well as in the store. Three Potato Four also boasts a children’s hair salon that operates Thursday through Saturday.

For larger items, another popular source for parents is Freecycle, where goods are offered free of charge to anyone prepared to collect them. This is both a good way to get rid of things you no longer need and to find second-hand goods that someone else’s child has grown out of.

9 Northwold Road
N16 7HL
Tel: 020 7254 7321

Merry Go Round
12 Clarence Road
E5 8HB
Tel: 020 8985 6308

Three Potato Four
44-45 Newington Green Square
N16 9QH
Tel: 020 7704 2228

More about Freecycle here.

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