Owner’s retirement leaves future uncertain for Mishawaka train shop

MISHAWAKA, Ind.—Since 2007, New York Central Toys & Trains on Lincolnway East has served as a hub for Michiana railroad enthusiasts.

From Thomas the Train toys to models for advanced hobbyists, the walls in the shop, despite an ongoing retirement sale, are filled.

Lifelong train hobbyist Jay Budzon is planning to retire in March, leaving his 13-year-old shop’s future in a bit of a state of limbo.

“We are getting very close to what I’ll call the point of no return. The first week of February, if we don’t have any interest from a buyer, we are going to sell out to the bare walls and put the train layout up for sale and the fixtures, have a little bit greater discount on the trains that remain,” Budzon said.

A native of Fort Wayne, Budzon said his earliest childhood memory is owning a red and silver Santa Fe train set. He spent years selling trains across the country before opening up his own shop at 2000 Lincolnway East in Mishawaka.

“When we first started here 13 years ago, a lot of people thought this business would never make it," Budzon said. "They thought there wasn’t enough people that liked the trains and I can tell you I’ve met almost all of them, they’ve come from far and near."

From little kids wishing they could spend hours watching the train on display roll by to senior citizens taking a walk down memory lane, Budzon has seen people of all ages come in to enjoy the shop over the years.

“We used to keep count of all the little kids that, when it was time to go, were kicking and screaming ‘no I don’t wanna go, no I don’t wanna go,’ but we lost count after the first year, there were just so many of them that didn’t want to leave. They just wanted to stay all day,” Budzon said.

The large sign out front of the shop is what Budzon credits with bringing in so many different people from all over.

“It was like catching fish with the sign. I’d say ‘Len, we got another one, we caught another one’ and the car that’s slowly passing would turn around and end up in our parking lot,” Budzon said.

While Budzon said he has had good years and bad running the hobby shop, sales are not the driving force behind Budzon’s retirement.

“I’m certainly not retiring because we’re not making money, I’m retiring because I have plans and things I wanna do,” Budzon said.

Among other things, Budzon will be spending his retirement playing keyboard for his Stevensville-based rock band “What You See Is What You Get” and traveling to Branson, Missouri to fulfill one of his dreams of taking a ride in a vintage aluminum vista dome train car.

Budzon said that if there’s no buyer for the business by early February, the shop will begin a going-out-of-business sale. As of mid-January, the store is running an inventory reduction sale. Store hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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