Choo Choo Nuts: New LHS in Lancaster, PA.
So my wonderful son, while being chauffeured to a homeschool co-op one day, noticed a sign that said 'Choo Choo Nuts' in a small commercial area along the road. Excited, he eagerly awaited my return home from my day job to deliver the news of a new 'Train Shop' that he had found. (This is only the most recent discovery in a long line of stores he is now interested in. One of which is a Pokemon card store....) I took him into my hands and, with glee, held him up and turned in circles. Hopeful music played and the clouds parted, streaming sunlight down upon us.
Well, perhaps it didn't quite go down like that, but I was pretty excited about the prospect of a new LHS in my area. A bit of internet searching yielded little more than a Yellow Pages entry and a single consumer review. Luckily it was a positive one. Interested at the lack of web presence, I opted to swing by the store one day after work. Here is my report. My Apologies for the picture quality. My iPhone was the only camera I had available at the time, but the photos are all clickable for a higher rez image.
Choo Choo Nuts: Location and Hours
Choo Choo Nuts is located at
444 East Roseville Road,
Lancaster, PA 17601
and I've confirmed the working phone number (at the time of this writing) is 717-208-3398. Good thing to note is that when I called to confirm hours and received no answer, nor voicemail, I received a call back from the owner in mere minutes afterwards. A shop owner interested in ensuring customer satisfaction is a great thing!
Location wise, it's pretty easy to get to. Straight up 272 off of 30. There's a sign on 272 just before the Mc Donalds. The shopping plaza is on the east side of 272, so it's an easy right turn if you're heading north on 272 from 30. The building it is in is located towards the back of the plaza, so you'll pass a few other stores to find it. Choo Choo Nuts is in a 'duplex' building along with a ladies salon. (In the back of the store, you can barely hear the louder of the ladies spreading the local gossip. Quite amusing if you ask me!)
Hours are pretty comparable to many other smaller LHS in the areas, although being closed on Sunday could be a loss of significant business. Of course that all depends on the religious beliefs of the owners and/or the business' target demographic, both of which I do not know.
In analysing the hours, the shop is open, on average 8 hours per day. At face value, I wouldn't mind having that since that's not too shabby working hours! I'm joking of course because there is so much more that goes on in the running of a business that the average customer doesn't see.
Upon walking into the store, four things hit me right away.
1. The store is kind of Small-ish. Roughly 25ft x 25ft but...
2. There is a LOT of stuff in here.
3. It's quite well organized.
4. There is a Southern Pacific C44-9W in the display case. Instant win in my book. (The fact there is a Espee Diesel here tells me that the owner understands there ARE railroads other than Conrail and Pennsy.)
After the initial 5 seconds of taking in the store, more things stand out. Choo Choo Nuts is exclusively HO and N, at about a 60/40 split respectively. Not too shabby on the N scale offerings. Most shops in the area are focused on 1:87 or larger. The diversity of the offerings is also well thought out, it appears. The categories of locos, rolling stock, detail parts, track, and buildings are well addressed in both HO and N.
As it would turn out, the owner I spoke to (Rob) is a custom hand-drawn graffiti artist and overall weathering enthusiast as well as certified DCC/Soundtraxx installer. He was, infact, working on DCC install and weathering jobs what appeared to be a Santa Fe SD-45 when I walked in the shop. As such, there are a decent amount of weathering materials available as well as an entire 4 drawer filing cabinet full of detailed parts. A fair amount of discussion was to be had, as Rob is a pretty personable guy, and I learned that he is ramping up stock on standard electrical components (diodes, heat shrink tubing, etc) as well. That is a great thing, especially for me!
Rob had been doing some part time business for the last few years out of his house, primarily via word of mouth and on ebay. I'll admit that while I don't like graffiti on the prototype or on the models, he does an amazing job! Especially since he does it all by hand, no decals.
Here's a few pieces of his work along with the corresponding prototype photos:
Choo Choo Nuts has been physically open for about 4 months as of this writing. They acquired a bulk of the stock from a different LHS (Rule's Trains) that closed it's doors in Dec '12 due to the owner retiring. While there is a website planned (http://www.choochoonuts.com/) it is not operational. Apparently, the guy Rob hired on to accomplish creating the website was a dud and development had stalled. Perhaps I should offer my services.... yeah right, as if I don't have enough to do!
In conclusion, the owners of Choo Choo Nuts, Rob and his fiance, have gotten a great start. Their advertizing campaign should be kicking into full swing in a month or two as their ads his the major magazines and LHS listings on the net. Rob stated they will be having a moderate internet presence via ebay and their own website, but as of yet, opening and operating the shop has consumed a bulk of their time. This place has potential to be a great place to shop, if it can last in this questionable economy. If you're in the area, drop in and make a purchase! Help support your LHS.
Here's a few more pictures:
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