Peter St. Yves set up at the HCEA national show.
Pete’s Model Garage showroom.
Norev 1/43 scale 1959 Berliet T 10-N4 heavy hauler.
Norev 1959 Berliet GBC 6X6s.
Spark, Gulf race car transporter and a Premium Classixx’s Porsche hauler.
Outstanding Schuco 1/18 scale classic Unimog.
Universal Hobbies promotional model for Wilson McCurdy Jnr. Transport.
More photos available in the Nov. TT&C 2010 magazine. Call (701) 883-5206 to purchase.
Other features included in the Nov. 2010 issue:
• Liebherr LR 1300 NZG's All-New Flagship
• Badlands Custom Trucks Business Without Planning
• Toy Talk Replicas
I have always been curious about the story behind toy collectors. We all have one, and it usually goes back to some sort of good childhood experience.
Peter St. Yves, owner of Pete’s Model Garage in Lakeville, Mass., has a story not unlike my own. We both grew up in what I refer to as the Regular-wheel Matchbox era. Pete’s aunt gave him his first Matchbox models. Like me, Pete felt these were indoor play toys that were neatly stored away when you were not playing with them.
As with most of us, Pete’s toy trucks and cars took a backseat in the teen years when more notice of real cars and the opposite sex took over. The toy cars and trucks were packed away through high school and college. After college, Pete married Julie and went on to work in the family business, which was St. Yves Datsun/Nissan. Pete ran the parts department.
In the late ’70s, he received a catalog from MTI (Miniature Toys Inc.) out of Westboro, Mass., which rekindled his interest in Matchbox models and his boyhood collection. This led him to join the American International Matchbox Club. AIM was based in Lynn, Mass., out of Harold’s Place toy store. This was THE place to go in the ’80s if you collected die-cast replicas. Around 1981 Pete bought a Matchbox collection and sold the doubles.
As the overall hobby started growing in leaps and bounds during the ’80s, Pete started setting up at local toy shows. His collecting was expanding into Corgi and Lledo models, along with other brands. Advertising in toy magazines, Pete started buying wholesale and developed a mail-order following.
Pete is just one of those nice guys to do business with. His likeable personality is an asset to his business, which is reflected in his success. In 2005, the St. Yves’ sold their Nissan franchise. Pete took an opportunity to buy a commercial building in Lakeville, Mass., and Pete’s Model Garage was started. His store encompasses 10,000 square feet of display area and also features a large open warehouse section where he puts on a few toy shows throughout the year. He also has enough room to store classic cars for people over the winter months.
Once he opened his store, manufacturers were more interested in dealing with him direct. Pete carries an inventory of what we usually see in the hobby, First Gear, Code 3 Collectibles, Norscot, Die-Cast Promotions, etc. But what, in my opinion, makes his store stand out from others are the replicas you usually do not see in the United States.
His shop is stocked with brands such as the British line of Corgi, Track Side, EFE, Oxford Die-Cast, IXO, Mini Champs, Schuco, Spot On, Norev plus many more. There is actually so much to see that you miss quite a bit in just one lap around the store. You need the time to take in and digest everything in each aisle.
Even with the store, Pete still does shows. You still need that contact with people at shows. “People still want to see the models in person.” You cannot really get the feel of a model and its details on the Internet.
When I went to Pete’s store to shoot pictures for this story, rather than shoot pictures of models we see all the time, I wanted shots of the models that many of our readers have never seen or perhaps have never heard of. This was easy with the unique models he stocks.
Rich Schmitter accompanied me for the adventure of unboxing and reboxing as we picked out models to photograph. All the while, Pete was taking one phone call after another, “Yes, I can ship those out this week.” “I will call you when they come in, should be soon.” “Yes, we have them in stock in that color.”
In between calls, he was taking care of walk-in customers. I saw one customer leave with the new First Gear Ward LaFrance fire truck. One of my favorite models, I had never seen, was a 1/18 scale classic Unimog snowplow by Schuco. Norev also has some extremely well-detailed 1/43 scale classic trucks, including the massive 1959 Berliet T-100 N4 heavy hauler.
I have to say though, looking at all the beautiful replicas of classic foreign trucks being produced throughout Europe, it did make me a bit jealous. Why don’t we have this array of classic American trucks being produced in this country? Think of all the classic American trucks that have not been replicated in die-cast.
A large part of the store features European Corgi models. Corgi is a bit like our Tonkin Replicas as far as promotional trucks for corporate customers. Norscot, who we think of as producing only Caterpillar replicas also has European customers. One such model in Pete’s shop is a 1/47 scale Magnum Metro 28 cement mixer/pumper. The store is packed with interesting promotional models.
Pete’s hobby has paved his way to a successful business. His vast inventory of unique replicas from around the world gives him a nice niche in the market. This and his customer-friendly personality has resulted in a large following of repeat customers.
If you are ever in the New England area, a trip to Pete’s Model Garage will be well worth your while. www.petesmodelgarage.com.
by Mark Macreading
Note: This feature was printed in the Nov. TT&C 2010 issue.
For more stories from this Nov. TT&C 2010 issue, go to http://www.toytrucker.com/past-issues.html and select Nov. 2010 issue - or call 1-800-533-8293 or (701) 883-5206 to purchase w/credit card. LIMITED QUANTITIES AVAILABLE!