From day one, Jeff Olin has seen the highs and lows of operating a small business. With just one employee – himself – at Village Train and Hobby, he’s played a crucial role in keeping the hobby of model trains alive for so many across the region.
The store, which permanently shut its doors December 29, has sold everything from tracks of all shapes and sizes, to mini figurines for more than two decades.
“We started behind my house in a little, probably 15-by-15 room, [and] grew from there,” Olin said. “We ended up with this building completely free of later all on the line, and it worked.”
Olin, though, believes he wouldn’t have that same success if he first opened his business today. As the popular local store has closed, he says online shopping has made it nearly impossible for small mom-and-pop shops like his to survive.
“Brick and mortar stores really are going to be a thing of the past. Everybody buys online. Really, when you're a brick and mortar store in a very, very small town, which is having a stronger after struggle to keep tenants on Main Street, yeah, it's tough,” said Olin.
The closing of small businesses like Village Train and Hobby are felt throughout their local communities, but oftentimes, that extends even further.
For 22 years, model train lovers have traveled to the store to witness the impressive displays and take a trip back to their childhood.
“We've had, at last count, I think, 11 countries in every state in America has been in here,” said Olin.
Olin says he’ll still attend and vendor a number of model train shows across the state.
For him, each day was an adventure, and it’s potentially the customers he said he’ll miss the most.
“Goodbyes are always tough, and it's almost like a living wake. We get a lot of customers that come in and shake our hand and thank me. And, you know, that's tough,” said Olin.
It’s estimated by Business Journal that more than $9 billion would be directly returned to our economy if every U.S. family spent just $10 a month at a local business.