SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

November 14, 2012

Keeping the trains rolling

For 30 years, Don Stubbs has found a way to keep his shop running in Peabody

PEABODY — They say there’s a kind of magic in model trains, in the way a miniature world can be contrived and then seem to come alive at the flick of a switch. It’s probably this kind of magic that entices some to open the shops that sell model trains.

The magic soon ends for most of them. Hobby shops face the fact that even those who love model trains can grow weary of them, can decide during times of economic distress that there are better uses for their money, or can pack up that miniature world and banish it to the attic when space gets tight.

That is why maintaining a shop selling model electric trains — keeping it open and profitable — is so difficult. So there seems to be a kind of magic in Don Stubbs’ North East Trains in Peabody Square. It’s a business he opened in 1982 almost as a hobby. It has been thriving despite moving twice since then.

“It was a struggle,” Stubbs says of those first years. And he adds that these days, with the economy creeping along, “it’s a very, very tough business. ... In the summer, it gets very lonely here. People are out golfing and sailing.”

But Stubbs has prospered through customer service — “You might beat our prices but not our service” — and canny marketing that over the last six years has included Internet sales sending his products out to customers as far away as Montana, New Zealand and Indonesia. Such people are unlikely ever to browse a hobby shop, but they can linger over the North East website.

“Online is a pretty big part of our business,” Stubbs says. “With just walk-in traffic, we wouldn’t be here now.”

That statement might betray some modesty. In fact, Stubbs survived more than two decades without the Internet. He makes a profit, for example, on some of those people who lose interest in trains by buying and reselling their collections. Diversification is also a factor — in addition to trains of all types, he points to a huge collection of models in the back room.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Business

AP Video
Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best AP Review: Amazon Fire Adds Spark to Smartphones All Aboard! LIRR Strike Averted Microsoft to Cut Up to 18,000 Jobs Time Warner Rejects Murdoch's Takeover Bid Yellen Says Economy Still Needs Fed Support Cleveland Expects Economic Boom From Lebron Justice Dept. Fines Citigroup $7 Billion Justice Dept. Fines Citigroup $7 Billion Downside of Low Mortgage Rates? Less Selling Cupcake Shop Crumbs Shuttering All Its Stores San Francisco Prepares for Soda Battle Dow Breaks Record 17,000 GM Crash Compensation Could Top $1 Billion GM Won't Limit Crash Compensation Funds
NDN Video
Weird 'Wakudoki' Dance Launches Promotional Competition Two women barely avoid being hit by train Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth
Comments Trcker