October 15, 2016

Vintage toy shop fills niche

Robert Layman / Staff Photo

A wide range of vintage toys pack the shelves at Rutland Toy and Hobby.

RUTLAND — A local family recently opened Rutland Toy and Hobby at 158 North Main Street, filling the niche that the former store Mike’s Hobbies filled for many years.

In fact, 158 North Main now has two businesses selling treasures from decades past, with the recent opening of the vinyl record shop Rick and Kat’s Howlin’ Mouse in the former Mike’s Hobbies space next door to the city’s newest toy store.

Rutland Toy and Hobby is owned by the father-and-son team of Wayne Thornton Sr. and Jr., and Thornton Jr.’s mother Denise handles the bookkeeping and also helps in the store.

Thornton Jr., who is 25 years old, said he has expertise in toys and comics from the 1990s and early 2000s, and all manner of video games, and his dad’s specialties are toys from the 1970s and 1980s, along with cars, trains and remote-control toys. Together, that’s a wide range of expertise that makes the key attribute of the new business possible: diversity.

Wayne Thornton Jr. points to a capacitor on the circuit board of a Sega Game Gear he’s in the process of repairing at Rutland Toy and Hobby on North Main Street.

Robert Layman / Staff Photo

Wayne Thornton Jr. points to a capacitor on the circuit board of a Sega Game Gear he’s in the process of repairing at Rutland Toy and Hobby on North Main Street.

Thornton Jr. said the various kinds of items offered have kept customers coming in the doors from day one. He noted that, these days, it doesn’t work just to sell just one kind of item. They also do repairs — Thornton Jr. taught himself how to fix video game systems.

“We’re not just any one thing; we’ve got all these things in one place,” Thornton Jr. said. “Diversity’s a big part of this, and it’s working.”

He said every day the shop’s open, traffic comes in, whether it’s somebody looking for a particular item, or people with vintage items they want to sell.

A good amount of in-store traffic came from locals and visitors attending the recent train convention held in Rutland, which Wayne Thornton Sr. attended to represent Rutland Toy and Hobby.

So far, along with lots of local customers, the store has seen customers from New Hampshire, the Glens Falls, New York region and beyond, giving the business a strong regional draw.

“People are willing to travel,” said Thornton Jr., who takes the lead on the store’s marketing efforts, Facebook included.

Crucial to the business is keeping track of the latest trends. For example, Pokemon Go was all the rage when the store opened in August, and so they filled the window with Pokemon-related items that attracted a number of buyers. With the new Power Rangers movie coming up, efforts are underway to get plenty of Power Rangers merchandise on the shelves.

They’ve also started preparing for the holidays, and that includes sorting through a recent, well-timed bunch of video games and video game consoles someone brought to the store.

It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but Thornton Jr. said his family keep the fun of it well in mind.

“We want to have fun,” he said. “Yes, we want to make money and sell products, but this isn’t supposed to be stressful. This isn’t supposed to be hard.”

Thornton Jr. also noted the store’s products carry a lot of nostalgia with them for customers, and they also allow for an escape for people.

“Maybe also a little hope, in a way,” he added. “Something to look forward to.”

This is the son’s first time owning a business. Previously, he worked for the state as a corrections officer based in Rutland. His father had a mechanic shop in Fair Haven and then went on to work at the Rutland transfer station, before going into business with his son at 158 North Main this summer.

Wayne Thornton Sr. and his wife, Denise, live in East Poultney, where they raised their son, Wayne, who now lives in Rutland.

Toys and hobbies have always been a huge part of the family’s life, now at home as well as work.

“I still get toys for Christmas,” the son quipped.

Rutland Toy and Hobby, located in suite 3 at 158 North Main Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday. The Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m.

Contact the business at 855-8263 or rutlandtoyandhobby@gmail.com, or check out the store on Facebook.

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