Toy, Cycle & Moped Dealer
'Max Williams' was a fondly recalled family-run, toy/model shop. It was in fact three shops: No.5 sold toys, No.7 sold bicycles and No.9 was the moped shop.
Max and his wife took over No.5. Church Road in 1947, turning it into a toy shop. In the 1950s, '60s and '70s it was the place to go for Dinky Toys, Corgi Toys, Tri-ang Hornby, Meccano and Airfix.
From the ever popular Airfix Spitfire to 1980s Advanced Passenger Train, Max Williams' shop was a paradise of quality toys and models.
From the mid 1980s it became much more of a specialist model railway shop, with enthusiasts visiting from all over the world. It stocked many items that could normally only be obtained by mail order. Max will always be remembered as the helpful, friendly man in the white coat, often to be seen testing or repairing model locomotives. Mrs. Williams was also very helpful and knowledgeable but with a more business-like manner. Next door was Max Williams cycles, which was mainly the domain of John Williams, Max's son. The bike shop sold a wide range of accessories in addition to a comprehensive range of cycles. In the mid 1980s the bicycle shop moved to the other side of the road, after the leases of Nos.7 and 9 were terminated. The moped shop was particularly popular in the 1960s and in the 1970s stocked Austrian Puch mopeds. The Puch Maxi was a popular, well-regarded machine.
Max Williams was a quality toy shop and it looked quality. The fascia had a black marble-effect design with red lettering, which was distinctive, modern and stylish. The centre part of the shop front was recessed, making a covered 'lobby', drawing window shoppers to the door. Either side were the window displays. Here you could gaze at the largest Airfix kits, the latest Tri-ang/Hornby locomotives, impressive working model boats and Meccano boxed sets. Then there were the fabulous Dinky Toys in colourful boxes, the similar but more expensive Tri-ang Spot On vehicles and the latest from the toy firm that made a huge impact in the 1960s: Corgi. At the top of the windows was a red advertising strip. This displayed the logos of Tri-ang Hornby Railways, Spot-On, Scalextric and Minic Motorways. All were products of the mighty Lines Bros. toy empire, who in 1964 acquired Meccano/Dinky/Hornby.
Through the heavy door the actual shop was quite small but crammed to the rafters with items. There were two low, glass display cabinets/counters behind which Mr and Mrs Williams stood while serving customers. On either side of the shop were tall glass cabinets, some containing railway books. A popular cabinet was the one devoted to 'second hand' model railway items. There were two or three revolving racks of Airfix Series 1 kits. These pocket money models were contained in simple plastic bags with a paper header. Perched up nearly touching the ceiling, were the large Airfix boxed kits, the domain of Christmas or birthdays. Other revolving racks were devoted to a multitude of model railway accessories.
Les Furnivall: "I recall the toyshop from the late 1940s when it was then a new shop. The big thing at the time was balsa models and I bought balsa model aircraft kits from Max Williams. The shop sold a lot of balsa kits plus bits and pieces including engines. This was before plastic kits really began to make an impact. I made different kinds of gliders, which when completed I used to launch over the Netham. Max Williams also sold air guns and these became popular. I had an air gun from Max Williams and used to practice in the back garden with my mate. Max Williams also sold bows and arrows.
Another thing the shop sold were the train spotting books, handy because Lawrence Hill railway station was very near by. I bought a scooter from Max Williams moped/scooter shop. This was an Italian Capri scooter, 90cc. I would say that Max Williams was the main place in the area for the lads. It was the shop to go whenever you had a bit of money."
Dave Cheesley: "It was a shop you could never pass without looking in the windows to drool over the toys. It was at Max Williams that I bought my first Dinky and Corgi cars. Later I visited once a week to get model railway items."
Andy Jones: "Max Williams Toy Shop was very special and the fact it was in Church Road was absolutely brilliant. Of course we took it for granted at the time."
Sue Davis: "I remember going to Max Williams in the early 1960s with my Dad, who was always interested in bikes. I particularly remember that Max Williams sold miniature toy farm animals. Also you could buy items to make a miniature model garden, which I thought were very attractive pieces. These were plastic and made by a company called Britains. It was always an interesting shop just to browse in if you didn't have the pocket money to buy."
This photo dates from the time Max Williams bike shop vacated No.7 and relocated opposite next to Palfreys.
On taking down the Williams signage a previous user of the premises was revealed. A.B.C. Cleaners & Dyers Ltd occupied the shop in the 1940s and '50s. This firm had a number of shops throughout Bristol at the time.
Max and Mrs Williams retired in the late '80s and their daughter and son-in-law took over the running of the shop. In 1992 it was announced that the shop was to close. The axe finally fell on Saturday 24 July 1993. The end of an era.