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The closure of commercial hobbyist retailers and parents' push to get kids creative has helped The Engine Shed model railway store in Leytonstone to grow
A model railway shop in the heart of Leytonstone is thriving despite the demise of many of its competitors.
Opened nearly three decades ago, the Engine Shed in High Road, Leytonstone, continues to win over customers with its locomotive kits, model railway sets, specialist parts, and expanding hobbyist supplies.
Locomotive fanatic Dave Haswell was a regular customer throughout the 80's and 90's until he over-heard it was up for sale and bought the business, transforming a childhood hobby into a full-time occupation.
"It's about bringing something to life and re-creating part of history by trying to capture a particular piece of time," said Ms Haswell.
The 52-year-old, who was a chef for 18 years, believes his store, which draws international tourists out of the capital, is one of only a handful independent model railways shops still trading in London.
He said: "When I took over in 2000 there were about twenty types in the London postal code area.
"Now there are only about four or five that I know still exist because the owners were either getting too old or higher rates and rents pushed them to close."
Although, he claims the market is nothing like it was, his business has benefited from the closure of Model Zone stores after they went into administration in June 2013.
The married father-of-one took a life-changing decision to trade in a career in the food service industry, and sold a restaurant in Romford after being fed up of the unsociably long hours.
Having watched his father and uncle repair and make engineering parts from a young age, the interest in model railways caught on, and Mr Haswell suggests there is a revival amongst the arts and crafts trade.
He said: "We have done some tremendous things for parents and their children's school projects with an example being making a volcano.
"But then parents get all technical and want it to glow or have lava flowing out of it and that's when they come to us.
"More parents are getting their kids into building model planes and trains to develop their practical skills.
"Spending £10 on a fix kit will keep their child happy for a couple of days rather than forking out £40 on a video game."
Mr Haswell says the key to his business success is being able to touch and feel the products, spending time with customers, offering expert advice and not flogging customers’ unwanted items.
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