From sweet treats to model cars, Esther's Hobby Shop celebrates 75 years in Millvale
A walk through Esther's Hobby Shop, in Millvale, is a step back in time.
Model trains, model plane kits and toy rockets line the shelves and walls at the hobby shop, located on North Avenue in the heart of Millvale's shopping district, that this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
The shop opened in 1938 by Esther Mehler as a variety store that sold everything from toys to coffee and ice cream, and today is run by Esther's son, Bob, as a store that specializes in N scale model trains.
Mehler, 82, who lives in the two floors above the store, said his mother “busted her butt” to send him to school and provide for him, and “that's why her name is still on the place.”
Six days a week, Mehler puts on a shirt with his name embroidered on the right side and a train-themed tie and walks down the stairs into the store to greet customers.
Once a week, he hosts the Steeltown N Scalers, model train club, which meets at the store to work on model trains and share advice.
Mehler greets each person who walks through the door, some by name, and helps them discover or develop an interest in a hobby. With many, he shares his love of N scale model trains by directing them to a large train display in the front of the store.
Mehler said the store allowed him to raise his six children, and today he lives “on Social Security and love.”
The hobby shop survived through the end of the Great Depression, economic declines, declining popularity of hobby shops and flooding that often hits the borough.
During one of the worst floods, caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, one of Mehler's train displays crashed through the front windows and floated down the street in the current of the rising waters. But Mehler vowed to stay open.
Today he caters to train enthusiasts from neighboring towns to as far away as Dubai, in United Arab Emirates, and Germany.
Millvale community and economic development director Eddie Figas said the borough is home to many long-standing businesses including Esther's, Vecenie Distributing Company, Jerry Kitman Fine Furniture and Lincoln Pharmacy, which all are located within blocks of each other.
“In a way, we're spoiled by the fact that we have so many long-standing businesses within the community, and especially when you realize how difficult it is to be in business in today's economy and survive,” Figas said.
“It's really a testament to the hard work of Bob Mehler and his family and his mom and the business.”
Figas said the businesses are more than stores, they are destinations because of the character and merchandise they offer.
“With Bob and Esther's, you just don't find that many hobby stores anymore,” he said.
“Every small town had one 15, 20 years ago but they don't have them anymore.”
For Mehler, it is a love of the hobbies, community and customers that keeps him going and enjoying his job each day — one which he has no intention of ending in the near future.
“The undertaker has been told not to take me out until I've given the last customer their change,” he said with a laugh.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Guests share thoughts on faith during feast at Richland mosque
- Pine-Richland High to host summer camp focused on robotic basics
- Shaler commissioner named president of Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust
- Shaler Area approves budget with tax increase
- Hampton’s part-time officer earns full-time promotion
- North Hills graduate helps rowing team excel at Eastern Sprints
- Hampton's Route 8, Duncan Avenue turning lanes face delay
- NA grad Sell signs free-agent contract with LA Dodgers
- Hampton Rotary’s Firecracker 5K kicks off 4th of July
- McCandless church to mark July 4 with Civil War drama
- Used-car lot plans submitted to Ross