HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Mark Buckley always liked toys. He especially likes trains. It’s the centerpiece of his shop at the Toy Depot.
Toy Depot owner Mark Buckley stands in front of his Lionel train display. He has collected more than 3,000 pieces of the O scale brand.
The store can take anyone back in time with board games, toys and — of course — trains.
“When I retired, I wanted to sell toys at antique malls and the flea market,” Buckley recalled. “And we had a friend who owned this building and they said we’d like to sell.”
What has transpired is a store that is truly unique. Old board games line one side of the store. There are thousands of Hot Wheels still in the packages, many types of Tonka trucks and O, N and HO scale trains and merchandise. Buckley said he had no trouble filling the store once it opened.
“All through my life, I enjoyed toys, but we were poor and couldn’t afford anything. So we got one toy a year,” Buckley said. “When I turned 30, I decided I was going to buy all of the toys I had as a child, then I wanted to buy all the toys my friends had and then I wanted to buy all the toys I always wanted.”
The store not only sells toys, but also buys toys and trains from those looking to sell. The clientele comes from all over the nation. One of his clients comes from New York. On the day of this interview, Buckley had customers from Liberal, Denver, Oklahoma City and Kansas City.
A Lionel display has buttons visitors can push to make parts of the display go into motion.
While the toy collection is second-to-none, it is the Lionel train collection that leaves the young and old amazed. They stare into the glass cases full of locomotives and cars. In the middle of the area, a train layout lets customers interact by pushing various buttons that operate it.
“I have a true passion for Lionel. I’ve loved it since I was four,” Buckley said. “I used to carry TV Guides . . . so I’d take my money and go to Jim’s Hardware and I would put a dollar a week down against a train car until I got it paid off.”
Buckley said his friends eventually started selling him their train sets and the collection continued to grow. It now numbers about 3,500 locomotives and cars.
Buckley says it’s the memories the store generates that makes it special, noting it’s a love of watching people enjoying what you’ve done. Most of the memories surround the board games. Nearly everything you can think of is in there.
The Hot Wheels collection is rivaled by few.
“Parents or grandparents will come in and buy a board game. It’s got to be the right box, the right color. It has to be exactly what they remember in their youth,” Buckley stressed. “Then they take it and show it to their grandchildren. People say board games are dead, they’re far from it. We sell hundreds of them every year.”
The store is rare, there are just 14 like it in the world, according to Buckley. He says as much as he enjoys selling toys and trains, he likes the reaction he gets from those who visit.
“I do it because of the love. It’s so much fun to have people come in here and smile,” Buckley said. “It’s a different business because when people walk in the door, they’re happy. When they walk through the store, they’re happy, whether they buy something or not.”
The store not only has an impressive collection of trains, but also toy trucks, such as Tonka and Tootsietoy. It also has board games that take customers back in time.