Friday, March 4, 2011

A NI shop specializing in toy trains

                                                           Mrs. C at her toy train shop in Spirit Lake/Ralph Bartholdt

A former book keeper for a construction company, Helen Campilli, and her husband, a maintenance foreman, decided to open an antique and toy train store when they retired.
For the past 15 years, the store, called C's Train & Antique Shop, has operated on Spirit Lake's Maine Street.
She runs the store alone now, selling mostly Lionel trains, sets, kits, cars and accoutrements to clientele from northern Idaho and Spokane.
Sets include Thomas the Train, Harry Potter and UP and cost from $170 and up.
"I have a larger selection than anyone in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane," Mrs. C., as she is known by local residents, said.
"They come to me."
Her steam engines are die cast.
"There are cheaper models, but I don't sell them," she says.
Business in the train siding isn't brisk, and it is mostly word of mouth, she said.
There was a guy who came down from Canada who was gambling at the Chewelah casino, Mrs. C will tell.
He told his wife that since he was in the states, he wanted to find a train store.
"The man beside him gambling looked over and said, if you want a train store go to Spirit Lake, Idaho," she said. "That's how I get most of my business."
Word of mouth.
Antiques are also on sale at her shop, but she doesn't sell many.
Her business advice: "Trust in the Lord. That's all I do. One day at a time. It's up to the Lord."
After 15 years, she still enjoys it.
You will find her in her store in a historical building that once served as a theatre in this small, historical whistle stop along Highway 41. She might be alone, or engaging long-time customers, newcomers or travelers who stop at C's Train & Antique to investigate this anomaly: A train store?
Yes, it's that.
Lionel mostly. Brand new in the box, or used, but looking and running like new (she has a repair shop that does excellent work, she says.)
Keeping the doors open and the faux steam from the tiny stacks smoking is her job.
"It keeps me out of the rocking chair," Mrs. C says.

—Ralph Bartholdt

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