Yesterday your PopCulteer took a day trip with his lovely wife to exotic Lancaster, Ohio, so that I could visit a Menard’s store.
Menard’s is a large hardware store chain, sort of like a Lowe’s or Home Depot on steroids, and many of them also carry groceries and other cool stuff.
Among that “other cool stuff” is their own line of O scale and HO scale pre-built, fully painted and wired for lights model railroading buildings. They also make a lot of accessories in both scales and lots of O scale rolling stock. Plus they sell some train sets made by other manufacturers.
I’m an armchair model railroader, meaning that I don’t currently have the room to build a layout or set up any trains. Consequently, I don’t follow the hobby nearly closely enough to keep up with what’s going on where. Still, when my weary brain recently made the connection that the Menard’s who advertise in the toy train magazines was the same company as the big-box hardware store that I’ve known about for years, my mind was somewhat blown.
Menard’s had a catalog in a recent issue of Classic Toy Trains Magazine, and in that catalog, one item struck me. It was this animated UFO scene, with a farmer playing tug-of-war with a UFO that’s trying to steal one of his cows.
I started looking for the nearest Menard’s. We almost went to one in while we were Chicago a few weeks ago, but ironically enough, it was too far away from the L for us to visit without taking a cab, plus when we go to Chicago we’re limited somewhat in how much stuff we can bring back…again ironically…on Amtrak.
So I found out that Ohio is blessed with a trainload of Menard’s stores, and while they aren’t too close, there are a few that are within a comfortable day trip’s drive. We couldn’t fit in a pre-Christmas trip, but the weekend after the holiday was open, so we decided to get out and enjoy the warm and overcast day. I could have ordered this from their website, but where’s the fun in that?
I did not shoot video of my first visit to Menard’s, but the video at the head of this post was made by someone from the Pittsburgh area who made their first visit to Menard’s back in November, and it’s a quick and fun watch that will give you an idea of what to expect. Menard’s only dedicates half of one aisle and an endcap to toy trains in most stores, but that half-aisle is packed with so much cool stuff that it’s well worth the trip. The other nice thing about that is that Menards, though dedicated to the hobby, will not force any full-service hobby shops out of business, since they don’t compete across every product line in the vas world of model railroading.
What’s really interesting for my local readers is that Menard’s has been flirting with opening stores here in West Virginia for years. Nothing came of an announced store in Wheeling back in 2015, but Menard’s now owns land at Tanyard Station near Huntington, as well as in Morgantown, near Clarksburg, in Parkersburg and we even passed a new store under construction in Belpre, Ohio, on the way back from Lancaster. I’m guessing that we’re at least a year (or more) away from any West Virginia Menard’s being ready to open, but it’s nice knowing that they’re eventually coming closer. In the meantime, it makes for a fun day trip, or a cool stop on the way to Columbus.
Yesterday’s day trip was to Lancaster, Ohio, where we found Menard’s, Meijer, an interestingly not-dead mall and a Frisch’s Big Boy, all within a two-mile stretch. It’s eye-opening to venture out of Charleston and see that, even as nearby as Parkersburg, the retail environment is thriving with new businesses popping up and new chain stores attracted to the area.
Since we’ve never had a Menard’s in this market before, I never got to see cool commercials that would have clued me on on their train stuff earlier, like this one…
Anyway, below are a couple more videos that show some of the cool model railroad offerings from Menards…
You can order Menard’s Trains and see more videos of their buildings HERE.