Shopping: Pay a visit to independent toy shop Flutterbies in Portishead, near Bristol, which specialises in wooden toys and games
Whatever your age, a toy shop brings out the inner child in us all. I'm not talking about your generic, plastic-pedalling chain store. I mean your traditional, independent toy shop, like Flutterbies in Portishead.
Tucked away in a neat little courtyard just off Portishead's picturesque High Street, Flutterbies is a child's dream. This small independent family-run business specialises in wooden toys, books, puzzles and other fun accessories.
The attractively designed shop entices wide-eyed children and their parents with its colourful window displays, and there's a ramp for easy pushchair or pram access.
Inside, the shop is an Aladdin's cave of both traditional and modern toys.
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As you walk in, you're greeted by a flock of crazy, springy animals hanging from the ceiling. Along one wall there are books galore for all ages and tastes, and on the other a display of wooden toys.
The tables in the middle are piled high with a range of fun arts and crafts toys and gifts.
There are toys of all sizes and to suit all purses, from the brightly painted individual letters, to the wooden ride-on scooters.
The popular emporium opened two years ago and is run by Lisa Harvey, with the help of her husband and children.
"I was a market stall trader selling soft furnishings before this, then three years ago we had a bitterly cold winter and I said to my husband that I just couldn't stand outside any more in the cold, so we decided to open a shop," says Lisa.
"We've lived in Portishead for 17 or 18 years, so we knew we wanted to open a shop here, and we decided on a toy shop because I thought that was something that the town was lacking.
"It's a family-run, local business. Our kids help out here – they're just wondering why we didn't do it years ago when they were little so they could have played with it all!"
The focus of Flutterbies is clearly on quality wooden toys and puzzles that fuel the imagination. There's no mass-produced plastic rubbish, and certainly no computer games or other technological wizardry – everything is interactive in the old-fashioned sense.
The carefully crafted wooden toys are top sellers including brightly coloured trains and lorries, bookends and mobiles, scooters and bikes, castles and dolls houses.
In addition to the wide selection of wooden products, there are craft kits, bathtime fun, dress-up clothes and much more. "We started off really small, choosing the stock that we liked," explains Lisa. "Since then, we have reinvested back into the shop and have a really wide range of products based on what we like, what sells well, and what our customers are saying they would like to see.
"We've always had a lot of great toys and puzzles for the younger children, and now we are focusing on catering for the seven to 11 age bracket. That's the age when they are starting to play with computers, but not all parents want them to be computerised and would rather they have a wider range of things to play with.
"The feedback I've had is that we're doing things right. People just don't want cheap, plastic toys anymore – they want quality, wooden toys and traditional stuff that will last.
"We have been requested to start selling Lego, which I'm considering. But it's plastic, so I'm on the fence with that one at the moment!"
The store is set back off the High Street in a small courtyard area which also boasts a dress shop, hairdressers and great little café.
And there was good reason for choosing this location, explains Lisa. "We picked this space because it's off the road so it's safe for children leaving the shop. They often rush out, excited by their toys and not looking where they're going, so being in a pedestrian area is ideal." The location does have a drawback, though. Despite a large and loyal clientele, many people in the town don't know the shop exists.
"Being set back and not on view on the High Street does mean we get missed," says Lisa, "so there are still a lot of people in Portishead who don't even know that we're here.
"It's a shame for them and us," she continues. "We sell such a good range of toys and accessories on their doorstep. By the time they've spent petrol money to go to the Mall, they could have come here and got something really lovely."
And it's not just toys on offer. The latest addition to the store is the pick and mix confectionery at the back of the shop, which is proving to be a big hit.
"Kids used to come in and buy two books for five pounds and I'd hear them say 'Let's go and get some sweets to go with it', and I thought 'Ahh, I'm missing a trick here'. So sweets are the latest addition and it's really popular.
"That's the trick you see, to listen to your customers – whatever their age!"
Flutterbies No2 The Old Bakehouse, 42 High Street, Portishead, BS20 6EL. Visit www.flutterbiesbooksandtoys.co.uk Flutterbies is currently closed on Wednesday afternoons.