A FAMILY-run bookshop in Tintern is bucking the trend in the current economic climate and celebrating 20 years in the village.

Whilst 400 independent bookshops have closed in the UK over the past five years, Stella Books is a vibrant and popular business.

What started in one room at home in 1991 turned into an internationally renowned business for Cliff and Chris Tomaszewski, who run Stella Books with daughter’s Sonia Bryant, 40, and Maria Goddard, 37.

The shop has more than 40,000 books in stock and specialises in rare and out-of-print books, some of which date back 400 years.

Over the two decades the business has expanded selling around 300,000 books ranging from £30 to £10,000.

It has won the hearts of collectors for its extensive collection, that includes children’s books from Enid Blyton to Beatrix Potter and the largest collection of Rupert Bear books in the world.

Stella Books, has a world-wide reputation thanks to its on-line store which sends books and up-to-date catalogues to customers, most recently in Asia and the United states.

"We were among the first independent bookstores in the UK to set up a website in 1998," said Mr Tomaszewski, 62, "We had always catalogued our books, of which we had 30,000 at that time, using a computer system so it was relatively straight-forward.

"The world-wide web opened up an international market between the 600 and 700 new customers a month and we steadily expanded."

But there will be no move to a totally internet-based business.

"We could close the shop and do all our business on the net," said Mrs Tomaszewski, 61, "But people like to feel, smell and handle books, and for that reason we would never shut."

"You don’t get the interaction with the customer on the internet but we recognise it’s the way many people buy and sell," said Mr Tomaszewski.

"The market for £10 books has gone and we can’t compete with services like eBay and the supermarkets," he added.

But the couple say the customer service they offer sets them apart from the rest.

"We employ 12 in our Tintern and Hay-on- Wye shops. It's our staff that make the difference. The care they take in describing the stock and helping customers was behind our small business award for outstanding customer service in 2008," said Mr Tomaszewski.