By Holly Toal
Model train enthusiasts from near and far have only a few months left to enjoy the sights and sounds at the Ridge Road Station in Holley, because after 19 years in business, the store is closing its doors.
“It’s time to retire,” said Peter Mills, who along with his wife, Janet, has owned and operated the store since 1992.
Mills, a native of New York City and formerly of Brighton, owned Great Lakes Plumbing Supply for 25 years before moving to Murray and building the Ridge Road Station.
“I liked trains, and I thought maybe others would too,” he said simply of his original vision.
Mills doesn’t have a closing date set, but said everything needs to be gone by June 1.
And he means everything — the lights, fixtures and even the building itself is for sale. Mills said he’s gotten a lot of interest in the two steel buildings, which grew in size over the years to encompass 30,000 square feet. But come summer, the buildings will be dismantled, the blacktop removed and the site bulldozed.
The store owner said his wife will retire, but he has some other business plans in the works.
Marilyn Thaine of Kendall has been working at the Ridge Road Station for about eight years. She said Mills employs all local residents, with extra help brought on during the holiday season.
Although she’s sad to see the store close, Thaine said she understands it’s time to move on.
“You miss having your job, but it’s always good to move on to something new,” she said.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon in the middle of January, one would have found it hard to believe the store is “going out of business.” But the Ridge Road Station has not fallen prey to the economy. In fact, the store has seen nothing but good business.
“You should have seen it in here on Sunday,” said Thaine. “It was packed.”
The business started with the Train Room, which, according to the owners, “features the finest G-gauge train layout east of the Rio Grande.” The Train Room boasts a 3,300-square-foot track that runs five trains on four levels, through 14 tunnels and across 11 bridges. With all the trains, tracks and accessories the Ridge Road Station sells, it became known as the largest G-gauge train store in the country.
After the success of the Train Room, business grew to include children’s toys, such as Thomas the Tank paraphernalia, Lego Land, K’NEX and the original Lincoln Logs; specialty and gift items such as Yankee candles; collectibles and hobby items such as model airplanes and race car tracks and accessories; and — something else it is known for — Christmas gifts and decorations all year-round.
In addition, the Ridge Road Station’s flagpole has become a landmark along Route 104. With a height of 130 feet, it flies an American flag that measures 30 feet by 60 feet in length.
Thaine said there’s been a lot of people coming into the store to see the Train Room one last time, since Mills announced in early January that it will be closing. She said another thing that has kept people coming back over the years is the fact that the store has unique gift and specialty items that no other stores have.
“He has a knack for finding things before they become popular,” Thaine said. She explained that Mills would often go to gift shows around the country where they introduce the newest line of toys and gifts.
Although Mills gets customers from all over the country — and the world — it’s the ones from right here in Western New York who will miss the Ridge Road Station the most.
“A lot of people are going to miss it,” said Mills. “There will never be another store like it.”
Current business hours for the Ridge Road Station are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed Mondays.