Toy shop celebrating 40th
Greg Bosak, owner of Chicagoland Toys and Hobbies in Norwood Park, sets a train on a scale layout. The store is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
What: Chicagoland Toys and Hobbies 40th anniversary party
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25
Where: White Eagle Banquets, 6845 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles
The party will include demonstrations of radio-controlled vehicles and train layouts as well as representatives from various hobby manufacturers. Prizes and entertainment also will be featured.
Information: (773) 775 4848 or www.chicagolandtoysandhobbies.com
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:05AM
NORWOOD PARK — Trains, planes and automobiles take up a lot of shelf space at Chicagoland Toys and Hobbies.
The family-owned shop at 6017 Northwest Highway in Norwood Park is celebrating a milestone.
The late Richard Bosak bought the shop, then called Hobby Service and Supply, 40 years ago when it was at 22 W. Madison St., Chicago, said his son, Greg.
“We were in the subway arcade in what’s now the lower level of Sears,” he said. “It was great because we were never affected by the weather.
“But we never saw the sun either,” he said with a laugh. “I was still in high school when my dad bought the store. I would help with sales, check in orders.”
Trains were Robert Bosak’s passion, according to his son.
“As a teen, for entertainment — and for a dime — he would get a transfer and ride the (public transportation) trains all day,” Greg Bosak said. “He learned the city really well.”
Robert Bosak worked for a hobby business, then for wholesalers before owning the business.
“The opportunity came up to buy this store,” Greg Bosak said. “As I look back today, I had three brothers, two in high school and one in grammar school when Dad decided to buy the business. I don’t know how he managed.”
Richard Bosak retired in 1993.
In addition to trains, big selling items in the 1970s and ’80s were slot cars and plastic models.
“There were three or four hobby shops, plus Woolworth’s and Marshall Field’s when we were there,” Greg Bosak said. “A lot of people would come downtown for that.”
But by 1976, the weekend business was way off, although the weekdays still were somewhat busy.
“The downtown area just wasn’t working for us anymore,” Bosak said.
So the store moved a couple of times, eventually settling down in its current Norwood Park location and changing its name to Chicagoland Toys and Hobbies.
Times have changed over the years, Bosak noted.
“We used to sell 500 issues of Popular Train magazine every month,” he said. “Now we’re lucky to sell 12. Now people are so busy, and there’s so much to entertain them, that building models is a lost art. Today things come out of the box, ready to go.”
Trains are still a hot item, but the shop now is seeing a lot of radio-controlled cars, planes and helicopters pass through its doors.
“We never sold those downtown,” Bosak said. “And we still get a few customers who remember the store downtown,” Greg Bosak said. “It’s fun to hear that.”
Keeping up with the times has meant maintaining an Internet presence.
Chicagoland Toys and Hobbies has had it website up and running for four years.
“E-commerce keeps us going,” Bosak said, “and we have the front door.
“Local people will look us up on the Web site and find out we’re right in the neighborhood. So they come in.”
The store also serves as a distributor for Boy and Girl Scouts items.
“We have uniforms, badges, pinewood derby (supplies,)” he noted. “That exposes a lot of kids and adults to hobbies.
“Rockets are a strong item for us,” Bosak said. “And we do repairs.”
What keeps Bosak behind the counter at the store is the love of the hobby world he inherited from his father.
“And it’s fun,” he said.