Thayer County Models Model Trains
9 Mar 2022
Have you ever wondered if a hobby store could be successful and sustainable? On top of that, have you wondered if a hobby store in a small town could be successful and sustainable? Well, David and Deb Zucker, owners of Spring Creek Model Trains proved it so for the past 22 years. Today, Spring Creek Model Trains is one of the top selling model trains store in the country. With Spring Creek Model Trains being in a small town, it makes it a destination store worth traveling to shop.
How It All Started
Born and raised in Deshler, NE, David’s favorite childhood hobby was watching trains pass. He grew-up hoping to one day open a model trains hobby store.
After marrying the love of his life and raising their children, David decided the time was near. For about 10 years, after he and Deb worked their other businesses, in their free time, they worked on opening Spring Creek Model Trains. To make sales before there was a storefront, they had vendor booths at weekend train shows about 42 weekends per year. Staying in contact with the people they met and staying relevant with model trains trends, community ties were formed and friendships were created. Spring Creek Model Trains became a trustworthy name in the model trains game. The Zuckers were able to transition from their other business and give Spring Creek Model Trains their all.
Trains Always Return to the Depot
Mike and Jeff Zucker are the sons of David and Deb. Both sons left Deshler to pursue their careers in bigger places and faster-life paces. Jeff moved to Lincoln, NE and Mike moved around to CA, NM, Omaha, and TX.
After starting their own families, both sons took their IT and engineering knowledge back home. Both are in Deshler working at Spring Creek Model Trains, married and raising their children. It’s officially a family business.
A Moment with David & Mike Zucker
We had the opportunity of interviewing David and Mike about running their successful destination hobby store in a small town.
“If you find a niche you can make it happen even in a small town, especially with today’s technology.” - Mike
Why did you open your hobby store here instead of Fairbury, Hastings, or some other big city?
- “Well, I had my own construction business and it was successful and we were making a living. So it was comfortable to stay here knowing those things. I guess security and I like the small town. I definitely questioned my sanity opening a hobby store here. One of my cousins had a Harley Davidson store in Des Moines and in talking with him as I was setting up the store, he told me there’s no reason it won’t work in Deshler as long as I create a destination. This is my dream and it’s gone a lot further than I ever thought it would.” - David
Why is Spring Creek Model Trains a big deal in Thayer County?
- “One of the things Dad’s always told us about the store, it is a destination for model train enthusiasts. The reputation of Spring Creek Model Trains started from those train shows every weekend. We carry the product. We strive to maintain our good customer service. We’re a model trains family and can talk to anyone about it. And then our store is a destination. People are willing to drive from all over the country to come to Deshler, NE. We’ve had people from Australia, Europe, Japan, Canada, come over, not to mention Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Detroit, Florida and Oregon.” - Mike
What trend will Spring Creek Model Trains not follow, if any?
- “Now the trend in the hobby industry is for the hobby stores to get smaller as a whole and they want you to come in and place your pre-order for something that’s going to be manufactured in the next year and then come back and pick it up. I tell everybody, I’m old-fashioned and I like to have things on the shelf. I want to pick it up. I want to look at it. I want to shake the box. So that’s the way I run my store.” - David
- “We’re never gonna get away from having it on the shelf. Jeff and I have talked about it. That’s the long term plan of the store. Continuing ways on how to become more of a destination.” - Mike
Has Spring Creek Model Trains partnered with the train watching station in Belvidere?
- “Yes. We are a sponsor for the train watching station and from a souvenir standpoint, we did a custom tumbler and are selling some of the station’s t-shirts. All proceeds from t-shirts return to the station. They also have long term plans for a future model railroad inside of the depot that we plan to support.” - Mike
- “The train station was put together by a group of women, hats off to them, Linda Hudson and the Belvidere Women’s Club. It’s amazing what they’ve put together. It’s truly first class.” - David
What’s next for Spring Creek Model Trains that will impact Thayer County?
- “We have our FreeMo Expo on April 23, and 24, 2022. It’s a free event held each spring when different modelers come and connect with each other. Their layouts are never the same because it’s based on how the modules are connected. Next year, we’ll have our bi-annual summer expo.” - Mike
- “Our summer expo attracts 800 - 900 people for the weekend, doubling the population of Deshler.” - David
Thrive in Thayer County
David said he’s teased about living and having Spring Creek Model Trains in Deshler. Yet, people often comment on how much they love the pace and the relaxed environment each time they visit the store. Slower lifestyle is not a dirty word. Many people prefer it and in Thayer County, we live here because of it. Thayer County is a way of life solution to a congested living problem.
Hobby stores, unique businesses, special niche businesses can all thrive in Thayer County just as Spring Creek Model Trains continues to do. Be the next hotel in Hebron or the next catering restaurant, you name it. Thayer County is the place to enrich your life and business. Once you visit us, you'll see why you too can thrive here. Come join us here in the good life.