The Story of
In the Beginning... Mike and I started Makin' Tracks as a business venture in late 2008.
I was retired, and Mike was (and is) a first responder -fire and rescue.
I had been selling model train items on eBay as a way to finance my train habit. Mike, a customer, stopped by one day to dig through my treasures. It didn't take us long to realize we had similar ideas about how a model train hobby business should be operated, and to see that our core values were a close match. And so, we put their heads together to take Makin Tracks to the next level.
There are many things which distinguish us from other hobby businesses -especially the "big dogs" found on line. That's where we thought we could make a big difference.
The "conventional wisdom" says to deploy automation, as much as possible, to create web sites and handle orders. You know the drill: click an item, add to cart, proceed to checkout, etc. But, too often, the automated process imposes some undesirable effects. For example, a baggie of screws might cost $5 to ship, simply because the vendor is locked in to a shipping process that says $5 is the least amount to handle and ship something. And suppose you have questions, or need something done a little differently? In these situations, the automation actually gets in the way of doing business. Finally, it is expensive to establish and maintain a big web site and all the automatic features which push customers, as if you were cattle, through one chute and down another.
So we turned all that on it's head. On our order pages, you have the convenience of quickly selecting what you want, but also the capacity to actually talk with the owners by a message box, an email or a phone all. And, yes, ask us "do you have...?" and "can you get...?" and "where do I find...?" and "how do I...?" We're all about that kind of conversation. We are, after all, model railroaders. And Mike is somewhat of an encyclopedia when it comes to railroad history and prototype operations.
Strange as it may seem, business actually gets done very quickly, this way, and the customer satisfaction level is very high.
Our vision and our mission is to do everything within our ability to make this hobby as accessible and as affordable and as enjoyable as possible.
Our motto is "supporting the hobby by supporting the hobbyist." This portrays our belief that we are dealing first and foremost with people, not processes. While we have some sympathy with the notion that folks should "support their local hobby shop," we believe the first loyalty is owed to the customer, and our business is built around that belief.
And so it came to pass... In the fullness of time, Mike and I haunted train shows to sell and to buy and to interact personally with people who share our hobby affliction. The business grew steadily and we made many new friends. And then, one day at a show, I chased down Ken Young, one of the show owners, to check the rumor that the Great Scale Model Train Shows were for sale.
Turns out, they were NOT for sale, although offers had been made over the years. Even so, I was invited to have a chat with famed modeler and show co-owner Howard Zane. Long story short, previous offers had been dismissed because Howard and Ken were uneasy about the prospective new owners -what would they do with the shows? How might they change them, maybe for the worse?
But Howard and we were definitely on the same page. After all, he had seen us in action as vendors and was aware of our dedication to the hobby, our ethics, and our great success as vendors. And so, we did the deal.
For us, what could be better than applying our business philosophy to an entire show?
And that is exactly what we have done. For vendors and buyers alike we have made the shows more affordable and rewarding than ever, and made changes and improvements at the suggestion of our constituents. We were gratified by the positive reaction of dealers and attendees, but knew we really had "nailed it," when Howard Zane, himself, expressed his approval and has gone beyond to support us in so many ways.
To learn more, visit the website at gsmts.com
And today... Given our greatly expanded operations, Mike and I have divided our responsibilities so that each side of the house has the full attention of one of us, with the other helping out as needed. Mike is basically responsible for product sales and service on a day-to-day basis, while I work on the train shows.
However, all customers, vendors, and inquirers should feel free to contact either of us about any matter at your convenience. Just use the email link, below.