Switch on to hobbies only at Superior shop

Business showcase

MARK WIEDERRECHT OF Superior Carpet and Hobby Shop stands near his train display at the store on Ludington Street in Iron Mountain. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — While floor coverings might get first billing in the name, Superior Carpet and Hobby Shop at 102 W. Ludington St. in Iron Mountain is ready to focus on the hobby side of the business.

Owner Mark Wiederrecht said he is phasing out the carpets and floor coverings.

“The hobby sales last year were the best sales I’ve ever had, and this year I’m about 20 percent above that,” he said, adding, “You go where the money is.”

When Ed Hermanson closed up his hobby shop on Hughitt Street in 1990, Wiederrecht purchased the inventory and began selling plastic models and trains out of his house.

Beginning in 1987, Wiederrecht also was selling carpet and tile for Walter Andrieni at Andrieni’s Appliance and Furnitureland. In 1994, Andrieni retired and the business was split into a carpet and tile shop purchased by Wiederrecht and a furniture and appliance business run by Dave Kinsella.

At that time, Wiederrecht moved his hobby shop into a corner of the carpet building. “Then it just grew and grew,” he said. “I hooked on to my eBay store and it took off from there.”

The hobby shop offers, both in store and online, Lionel, MTH, Weaver and Williams H0 and N scale model trains; model cars and trucks; book; magazines; jigsaw puzzles; and dolls.

“I branched off from selling models and trains to selling die-cast and military collectables, military miniatures, paints and glues, dolls — thanks to my mother’s collection, that I am desperately trying to get rid of — and nostalgic signs. I’ll sell whatever it takes,” he said.

Wiederrecht says about 87 to 90 percent of his hobby sales are online sales and he ships worldwide. “There is hardly a nation in the civilized world that I haven’t shipped to,” he said.

Which makes having the post office across the street from his store very convenient. “It’s a lot easier for me to carry a 2-pound box across the street than a 200-pound roll of carpet out the back door, particularly when you are 60 years old,” he said.

His most popular items are plastic models, vintage train sets and military items. “Stuff from WW11, the Civil War, and I’ve had a couple of Revolutionary War items come through,” he said.

As a collector himself, Wiederrecht also buys and sells military weapons from the Revolutionary War, The Civil War, World War I, World War II and The Korean War, including items from all nations, such as the Romania bayonet he recently received in the mail.

However, Wiederrecht only expects to be in hobby business another 10 years. He says the industry is declining and the area has very few shops. He doesn’t see long-term growth in the industry because the younger generation isn’t interested, adding that’s been disappointing. “It’s a great experience for the younger individual, to learn to work with their hands, to develop patience and follow instructions. It’s a skill that is lost,” he said.

Without the interest, “There are a lot of things that went from being collectible to being junk. Trains, dolls, baseball cards — no one wants them anymore. When I grew up in Detroit, there was a hobby shop everywhere but now they are all gone.”

However, for now, a generation of interested consumers remains.

Lee Fisher of Florence, Wis., a regular customer at the Hobby Shop, spends his time watching and making YouTube videos on model railroads. He said he’s been building models since he was about 9 years old.

“What you got now is guys that are in their 40’s, that use to build models when they were kids, getting back into the hobby again,” he said.

So for now, Wiederrecht is happy to be in the hobby business. “It allows me to sit here and chat with people like Lee. Hobby shops, like the old-time hardware stores, are places where people (with common interests) come in and hang out,” he said. “I enjoy doing this; it gets me out of the house but keeps me out of trouble.”

While Wiederrecht says he is no longer filling the flooring showroom, he still has quite a bit of merchandise in the store.

“I’m more than willing to make deals to move it out. There is a lot of carpet, there are still rolls of vinyl and no-wax vinyl, but all the tile and outdoor carpet is all gone. I’ll still sell carpet if someone wants me to order something and I’ll give them a good price, but when my inventory is gone, I’m not going to stock any more. I’m slowly changing over to all toys,” he said.

Wiederrecht lives in Kingsford and has been married to his wife, Terry, for 38 years. They have one daughter, Martha, also of Kingsford.