A change of career direction for husband and wife couple John and Liz Amphlett, coupled with a huge leap of faith, led to the launch of their own business, a toy shop bang in the heart of Chepstow. JONATHON HILL found out more.

SINCE leaving their council roles in 2014, Jon and Liz Amphlett have embarked on an enjoyable, and sometimes rocky journey, of owning their own shop.

Toytastik on Moor Street in Chepstow town centre is proving more popular by the year, and Mr and Mrs Amphlett, who are husband and wife and have two grown-up children, said looking after the store has been a breath of fresh air - albeit with its fair share of challenges.

For 25 years, Mr and Mrs Amphlett worked for Bristol City Council and Chepstow Town Council respectively.

“I became disillusioned with local government and felt I had to get out and try something different,” Mr Amphlett said.

“Seeing the cuts to services that I felt were really essential made me reconsider what I wanted. I felt like I was losing direction.”

South Wales Argus:

Jon Amphlett at Toytastik on Moor Street in Chepstow

Six years ago, the pair took what they describe as a “huge leap of faith” by acquiring the shop with little experience, but they are delighted with how it has gone so far.

“We know Chepstow well, we brought up our children here and have lived here for 30 years,” Mr Amphlett said.

“We felt there was scope for the toy shop and wanted to give it a go.”

The shop has gone from strength to strength, sales are up on last year, they regularly hold events at local schools, and they have recently had an extension to the side of the store to accommodate children’s clothes as well as toys.

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Jon Amphlett at Toytastik on Moor Street in Chepstow

“Our door is always open and we’re lucky to have good relationships with people in the area,” said Mrs Amphlett.

“In a town like this it’s often about word of mouth, so it’s important to have those relationships. But the great thing about the high street here is that those relationships are genuine.”

Recent issues such as parking charge hikes and rising rates has been a cause for concern for many in the town, but Mr Amphlett called for calm and asked people to be “realistic”.

“Bigger chains will not come here as it is, but we shouldn’t see that as an issue,” he said. “What we can focus on is what we can do.

“I wouldn’t vilify anyone for going to big chains and buying online. If you want a branded product you might go to Newport, and that’s fine.

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Inside the shop

“All we would ask is that when you get the chance to support independent locals, you pop in to see us too.

“What high streets like ours can do is create an atmosphere that is different, and it’s important we change the psyche that independents are always more expensive, because in our case that isn’t true.”

Asked about the secret of successful small businesses, Mr Amphlett says there is no magic formula.

“Our USP (Unique Selling Point) is about building trust, knowing our games and not being greedy with our prices,” he said.

South Wales Argus:

Inside the shop

“We spend a lot of time getting to know the games inside out,” he said. “We’ll make really fun grandparents one day!”

He says working with his wife can sometimes be strange, especially compared to their old lives.

“Perhaps the downside of working with your partner is that it can take over your life sometimes.

South Wales Argus:

Jon Amphlett at Toytastik on Moor Street in Chepstow

“But in our old jobs we used to talk about normal work stuff when we got home. Now we sit and play games, so there are plus points,” he laughed.

“Of course the high street is challenging, but it’s a challenge we intend to meet head on. It’s up to us to be positive about the situation and give it everything we’ve got.”