Planes, trains and automobiles
Depot Train & Hobby
owner Tim Bosak in the basement of his store on
West 130th Street in Cleveland.
Photo credit: JEFF
3:34 pm, December
If you’ve been to the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo during the
holidays in the past 10 years, you’ve probably seen the work
of Tim Bosak, the owner of Depot Train & Hobby.
Each year for the past decade, he and his son, Chris, have
built the model train display housed in the administrative
building at the zoo. And, each year, Mr. Bosak takes it upon
himself to add a new feature to the display, hoping to make it
a more interesting and exciting for the thousands of people
who visit each holiday season.
The display is an extension to Mr. Bosak’s retail
operation, nearly hidden on West 130th Street in the West Park
neighborhood of Cleveland about a mile south of Interstate 71.
But, while the zoo display is manicured and quite elaborate —
this year with seven large scale model trains on roughly 350
feet of track, a waterfall, and a miniature gondola and
carnival rides — his Depot Train & Hobby store might well
be a celebration of, well, inventory.
When it comes to model trains, planes and automobiles, his
store has just about everything: train sets of any scale, as
well as train tracks of about any variety and size, metal
detailing for model cars and planes, and countless
accessories. In the front room of the store, which used to be
a home, there are racks and racks of model cars, planes and
military vehicles. In a back room, there are model sailboats
Downstairs, though, there’s the real booty: model trains.
Locomotives, including those made by Lionel and other big
names in model railroading, line the walls and fill counter
displays. Racks of spare train cars and accessories take up
most any usable space in the basement rooms. A hallway has
paint, miniature cars and tiny people to detail are model
Mr. Bosak, a 58-year-old Cleveland
native, explains it’s all about having the right stock at the
“To be able to succeed, you have to have
something of everything,” Mr. Bosak said. Customers “are not
going to come back if you don’t have it.”
|Depot Train &
A model train and hobby store at 4342 W. 130th
St. in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland.
(Look for the KISS-FM billboard, the parking lot
is directly below it.)
Owner Tim Bosak officially opened the store in
March 1983. The store offers model cars, airplanes
and military vehicles, as well as dollhouses, race
tracks and hobby accessories.
From printing to models
Depot Train & Hobby, which officially got rolling in
March 1983, is as much of a story of evolution as it is about
Mr. Bosak originally started a printing
business, T.J. Bosak Co., at the location in 1970 and printed
business cards, letterhead, brochures and pamphlets for small
At one point, an employee asked if
he could start selling model trains and Mr. Bosak agreed,
allowing him to set up shop in the basement. Meantime, he
started by selling military models and eventually added
plastic model cars and planes.
Although he still runs
the printing business out of his first-floor office, it has
become secondary to the hobby business. The hobby has
developed a reputation that has spread throughout Northeast
Ohio among hobbyists, he said. Partly, that’s because of his
When a customer asked him to stock
something, he’d get it.
“If it sold, we’d restock it,”
Mr. Bosak said, adding with a slight laugh, “If it didn’t
sell, well, then we’ve got the best selection in town.”
That seems to be his business mantra. Although he said
he’s a businessman first and, frankly, not much of a hobbyist,
he wants to make sure his customers are satisfied and have fun
when they visit his store. As they walk out the front door, he
often asks, “Did you enjoy visit?”
year, Depot Train & Hobby sets up the model train
exhibit at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo for its December
Photo credit: JEFF STACKLIN
In his 22-plus years in business, Mr. Bosak said he has
considered moving the business from its current
if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it location under a Clear Channel
billboard on West 130th Street. Ideally, he’d like to have the
business at location with a single, larger sales floor, but he
has never found the right place.
But, because he owns
the building he’s now in, he saves on expenses and can make it
through when the economics get tough, he said. And, although
his son, Chris, helps out with the holiday display at the zoo,
he’s not involved in the business, Mr. Bosak said.
has one full-time employee, Loren Potts, who is a model car
hobbyist and who got the job because he spent so much time in
Mr. Bosak’s store, and two part-time employees. Mr. Bosak
declined to reveal the store’s annual sales but said it was
more than that of his printing business.
Mr. Bosak has
no immediate plans to retire or sell the business, he said.
Most likely, he said, he eventually will hire a store manager
“who wants to be more involved in the business.”
I’ll come in occasionally,” he said. “I like selling things. I
like having a home like this.”
He’s not the kind of guy
who’d spend his retirement playing with model trains. Just as
an auto mechanic’s cars are the last to get fixed and the
accountant’s check book is that last to get balanced, Mr.
Bosak confides he doesn’t have a model train set up in his
“I have one of the nicest layouts, and it’s at