ST. PAUL — After 14 years selling toy trains on St. Paul’s Marshall Avenue, Choo Choo Bob is pulling out of the station — though his store will continue under new ownership.
Choo Choo Bob, formerly known as the film scout and music video producer Bob Medcraft, opened the popular train store at 2050 Marshall Ave. in 2005 with his wife, Gretchen. From there, the couple launched a radio and television show about trains, toy trains and railroad trips across the country.
They also added a bit of color to the corner of Marshall and Cleveland avenues, where model trains operate in the front window, and public play areas await children inside. The store, an official affiliate of the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Specialty Station, carries everything from Hot Wheels and Playmobil sets to specialty train brands popular with hobbyists.
“The Choo Choo Bob Show” launched in June 2012 on Saturdays at KSTC-TV, Channel 45 in the Twin Cities area, with backing from a University of Minnesota pharmacy professor and Medcraft’s contacts in the music and film industry. In a previous life, Medcraft had helped scout or manage locations for films like “Grumpy Old Men” and “Jingle All the Way,” and later produced music videos for Prince, Barenaked Ladies and others.
Opening a retail store was a leap of faith, and according to the store owner, it’s time to take new leaps.
“I sold the store. I didn’t close it,” said Medcraft, addressing the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday. “It’s been fun. It remains open and hopefully it remains open another 14 years. I have my fingers crossed. After 14 years, it was just time to move on. … I have other passions.”
Council member Mitra Nelson read a proclamation from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s office into the public record officially proclaiming Wednesday to be Choo Choo Bob Day in the city of St. Paul.
Medcraft said he sold the store to two local women who had fallen in love with the shop when their kids were younger. One of the new owners, Jennifer Southerling, closed the store for a week to make building improvements but has already reopened.
“I had two little boys — 4 and 5 — when I first opened, and it helps to have that energy, with kids running around,” Medcraft said, in an interview. “You have to have a certain mentality when you run a store like that. They’re 18 and 19 now.”
Medcraft said he produced 38 video episodes and six DVDs as Choo Choo Bob, and the content is still available on Amazon Prime, YouTube and other streaming services.