The End of A Landmark Greenwich Village Toy Shop
By James Grahame
Jack Szwergold says: After nearly 40 years in business at the exact same location—it was opened in 1969—rent and old age have pushed Grover Van Dexter into deciding to close Second Childhood and sell off his amazing inventory.
I first discovered the place as a kid in the 1970s when my sister and her husband went shopping for custom-made sandals—like all twenty-somethings of the era—and I was bored. I was 9- or 10-years-old at the time. So they walked me around the neighborhood and in the window I saw a pile of R2-D2-like figures. Turns out they were imported from Japan. Since indulging a kid in yet another toy was not high on their list of priorities—heck, my sister’s husband & her brother actually put “getting high” high on their list—all I saw that day was stuff on the window.
But on the subway ride back home I was determined to go back their with my dad no matter what. So I made sure I knew what station we got on at; West 4th Street. And made sure to remember the route we walked so I could retrace the route with my dad. Happily I didn’t get a contact high from all the weed my older brother-in-laws were smoking so my memory was intact and the next weekend we made the trek from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to Bleecker Street in Manhattan.
The inside of the store now is pretty much exactly the same as it was in the 1970s. Except in the 1970s it was also filled with Japanese toys the owner—Grover Van Dexter—sold with his partner to neighborhood kids and kids like me who discovered his great store and sought it out.
Not only were the toys cool, the Yen was weak back then and the dollar was strong so he sold them at fair market price. Which meant to I could buy better/cooler Micronauts—known in Japan as Microman—for only the extra cost of taking the subway out there to get them. And my dad liked the place since it had toys that were more from his era/childhood as well. An amazing NYC find for a young kid like me. And I’ll always have fond memories of the great stuff I was able to get, along with the great owner who truly ran his store not as an elitist antique store or boutique, but as a true classic toy store where kids of all ages were welcome.
The 1970s/1980s Japanese toys in the store are long gone. But the vintage toys are still there and slowly being sold off to many vintage toy collectors in the area who know and love the store as well and appreciate the little bit of magic Grover Van Dexter has managed to keep alive over the years.