There’s something about a toy shop that still sparks a curiosity in me. Colourful boxes cry out to be ripped open, the contents strewn about the floor, then built into powerful towers or turned in race-courses, tea parties, or a make-shift puppet theatre. I’m well into my thirties – but, as I sit on a high-stool in Weasel and the Bug waiting for the owner, Katie, I find myself swinging my legs and eying up a vivid red wooden truck to my left. There’s a familiar voice in my head that tells me not to touch the display. But, when I’m sure no one is looking, I reach out for just a moment and give the truck a little push. An engine purrs into action in my mind and the invisible driver toots his horn. Before anyone catches me, I pretend I’m checking the details of a nearby box, write something in my notepad, and go back to play-acting the adult I’m supposed to be.
Although I’m a little older than their target audience, this desire to play and use your imagination is what Weasel and the Bug is all about. Kids are free to look around, hold the toys, play, and make noise if they want to. This cosy grotto is a place where toys are given life before they even leave the store.
Katie is the amiable host, welcoming every parent and pushchair with a friendly hand down the stairs and a conscientious offer of help. This is the lowdown on the dream toy shop, that she has turned into a reality…
Weasel and the Bug is home to a hand-picked collection of imaginative, environmentally-friendly toys powered by children, not batteries. Many are traditional wooden toys and there is a selection of clothing. The products are aimed at 0-7-year-olds, with a focus on toys that encourage learning and active participation. Kids can truly be kids here.
It all started when Katie was on the hunt for interactive toys for her daughter. She had noticed that when a toy was loud and flashy, her daughter just watched without fully engaging. With simpler toys, she’d find ways to play – creating new games or stories, using her imagination, and ultimately developing her motor skills. On realising there was a lack of options like this on the high street, Katie decided to set up her own toy shop. She wanted to create a place where parents and children would feel welcome to browse and pick up the toys on offer. It was a popular concept. Two years ago she started selling on Facebook, then demand saw her set up a stall at local markets. In 2015, after great success at the Chester Christmas Market, Katie had finally raised enough to start her own bricks and mortar shop.
AT THEIR BEST
Friendly, welcoming, and individually tailored customer service mean Weasel and the Bug have a loyal customer base. Katie and her team are knowledgeable, experienced, and can answer questions on toy storage, durability, and enjoyment. They keep up on the latest trends at trade shows in London, Birmingham, and Germany, and bring that back to Chester to ensure children here have the very best toys available.
Grimms Rainbow. This is Weasel and the Bug’s flagship toy, and Katie says the creativity is endless. It is made up of 12 tunnel-shaped pieces cut from a solid piece of basswood and painted in vibrant rainbow colours. You can make everything from a reindeer or motorbike to a mermaid, face, or maze – pretty much anything your child’s imagination can conjure. Younger children also love just stacking it up to fall over.
Chester locals return time and time again, but now the shop is online it reaches customers as far away as Singapore and Dubai. The beautiful wooden toys have caught the eye of some prestigious play-enthusiasts too – the King of China’s grandchildren have received Weasel and the Bug bought toys as a gift, plus celebrities, like Giovanna Fletcher (Tom Fletcher’s (McFly) wife), and footballers also regularly stop by.
They’re constantly scouring the world of toys to find the best items to stock their shelves. Therefore, whenever you visit there’s bound to be a surprise, with some top secret new brands on the horizon. One day Katie hopes to expand to a bigger shop, but they would always want to keep their signature personal service and style.
You’ll find them at 19 Watergate Street, just moments from The Cross, and sandwiched by the Corks Out bar and shop. You can also shop online here.