Mannequin prepare retailer gives way more than simply toys

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PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — In Pinellas Park, there’s an age-old enterprise that not solely survived the pandemic however grew stronger due to it.

Just like the real-life metal titans, their fashions are made to copy, which doesn’t appear to be it’s going to alter anytime quickly.

HR Trains and Toys has been supplying mannequin prepare house owners with every part they should make their railroad desires come true for 45 years. They promote all kinds of mannequin trains, all of the fixings that make these units come to life, and restore fashions for purchasers.

They’re additionally within the enterprise of creating desires come true for individuals of all ages.

“We facilitate individuals in a interest that’s in all probability one of many oldest hobbies round,” Dennis Hoffman, proprietor, operator and prepare fanatic mentioned.

After I arrived to fulfill Hoffman, I believed I’d truly be interviewing Santa Claus. He even confirmed me his vacation prepare that runs year-round and a puzzle along with his likeness. I had forgotten how a lot individuals like to put trains round their Christmas bushes and all of a sudden remembered that I had one.

My grandfather, George Apthorp, was a conductor on the Erie Lackawanna Conrail Railroad in upstate New York, and I simply so occurred to have an industrial rail yard proper behind my home. On sure days I might exit the backdoor, stroll down the hill to the tracks, and my grandfather would choose me up. He would let me trip with him a number of hundred toes till I needed to get off. I used to be solely about 4 or 5 years previous, but it surely’s a reminiscence that also sticks in my head.

He additionally had a giant mannequin prepare set in his basement. I keep in mind going there and watching him play along with his trains. He even gave my father a set that we nonetheless have in a field of their basement.

Sufficient about that for now.

Dennis was born into this interest. His father was a mannequin railroader and began the enterprise along with his spouse again within the Nineteen Seventies. Now Dennis and his mother run the store making an attempt to move their love for this on to extra generations.

“We get our youngsters in right here with Thomas the Tank trains. Then they transfer on to among the smaller fashions. We get the grandmas and grandpas that need to construct prepare units that they had after they had been children. We additionally get the railroaders which have been doing all of it their life,” Dennis instructed me.

Whereas the pandemic damage so many companies, HR Trains thrived as a result of as he put it, “mannequin railroading is a stay-at-home kind of interest.”

It is the biggest mannequin prepare retailer in Florida. Having a store that dimension with the variety of merchandise he takes in every day requires the appropriate staff to make it run easily.

Dennis is the conductor right here, however he admits he’s not probably the most educated particular person on the retailer, and that is once I met his engineer.

Working away in a workshop at the back of the shop, I met Marco Camuzzi. On at the present time it was his birthday. He is 18 years previous.

Marco began right here as a buyer and now for the previous yr has been Hoffman’s right-hand man, repairing fashions for purchasers, stocking cabinets, and serving to clients pick the appropriate prepare.

Immediately he was repairing a prepare’s electrical that shorted out after the proprietor unintentionally put in the incorrect element to make the smoke stack work. He was additionally supplying me with a historical past lesson.

Like Dennis, it is in his blood.

“My Uncle had mannequin trains. He constructed a desk. He constructed a desk for my cousin. When he grew out of it, I obtained all of the stuff. My grandmother’s father was a conductor for the railroad in Cuba,” Marco Camuzzi mentioned has repaired a buyer’s prepare.

Mannequin railroading isn’t Marco’s solely factor although. He’s been singing and enjoying the violin since he was eight and likewise does musical theatre.

“I am the child that wishes to sing and act for a residing however does mannequin trains on the aspect,” Marco mentioned with a smile.

Even when he does not follow mannequin trains as a profession alternative, Dennis is grateful to have such an enthusiastic particular person serving to information the shop for a brand new technology.

“He is a go-to particular person if you wish to know one thing about European trains, digital, and American trains. He simply is aware of every part,” Dennis mentioned.

He is aware of it so effectively that he efficiently fastened the prepare he was engaged on whereas we had been speaking.

His pleasure for that is contagious. So contagious that I went looking for my grandfather’s railroad automobile and truly discovered it.

From the realism of those fashions to the technical abilities they require to maintain up, there isn’t any denying they’re doing way more than simply enjoying with trains at HR Trains and Toys.

“I simply like it and if you love one thing as a lot as this you simply study as a lot as you may about it,” Marco mentioned.

You possibly can go to H-R trains and toys on forty ninth Road North in Pinellas Park.

They’re open six days per week however develop to seven days in the course of the vacation season. You can also shop online.

The shop can be getting ready for a large prepare present this October, which can embrace classes, audio system, and the possibility for youths to construct and race their very personal trains!



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