WILTON, Conn. — Even in these high-tech digital times, no toy trumps a train, according to the owner of Heritage Hobbies in Wilton.
The hobby has never gone out of style and continues to thrive in the region, oftentimes resurrected by men when they become fathers and grandfathers, says owner Rocco Castango, who lives in Norwalk.
The store on Route 7 near the Norwalk border is one of the last few remaining hobby stores in the region. It has been around for 33 years.
"We have customers come and buy more trains and accessories for their layouts, and people come in to buy them as gifts,” Castango told Daily Voice in a phone interview.
Also hugely popular are drones and radio-controlled airplanes, he said. Castango carries an array of both, with new ones arriving regularly. Metal and wooden model kits are also among the inventory, with a customer base that ranges in age from 5 to 95, according to Castango.
His entry into the hobby world was through remote-controlled planes. A lifelong flyer, he offers lessons at Allen's Meadows Park in Wilton through the store.
"We sell everything from coloring books, to drones, to toys for kids, board games, model rockets, and pinewood derby items, decals, wooden cars, weights and paint," Castango said. For train fans, he carries HO, O and N gage, sets, trains and accessories.
Model trains have never gone of fashion, according to Castango.
“Recently, a customer brought a 20-year-old ice skating rink decoration from his layout whose tiny people no longer worked," he said. "We were able to repair the mechanism. He was so happy when we fixed it."
The store can fix almost anything, Castango said. “We do all types of repairs. We'll fix anything really, trains, remote-control items, even electrical stuff. And if it's something I can’t fix, I have a guy who helps me out.”
He also stocks the kits — everything from a block of pine, plastic wheels, metal axles and the paints — that parents and kids need to build cars for the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby and the Girl Scout Powderpuff Derby, Castanga said.
"A lot of towns kick it up around the first of the year,” he said.
He doesn't mince words when asked about the rewards of running his business.
“I love it. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
The store is located at 33 Wilton Road, Route 7, Wilton. For hours and information, call 203-834-0441 or click here for the Heritage Hobbies website.