Organic Consumers Association

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Landmark Toy Store Closing

Dave Shaffer hasn't been able to tell his daughters Mitchell's Trains, Toys & Hobbies is closing.

"They love this place," he said. "It's going to break their heart."

As he and his wife, Denise, of the Glasgow area, lingered over the Mitchell family's collection of historic photos displayed in the windows of the Fairfax store, they reminisced about the store and other lost landmarks -- Wanamaker's, Almart, the Chuck Wagon.

When he was a kid, Shaffer and his brother bicycled from Todd Estates to the Mitchell's store in Ogletown. "We liked the slot cars, model rockets," he said. Mitchell's was the first Delaware store to get butterfly yo-yos. "It's sad to see them go."

Overhead hung a banner put up earlier this year to celebrate Mitchell's 55th anniversary, but with this week's announcement of the store's closing, the sign has become a memorial. "Mitchell's was wonderful," Denise Shaffer said, "but you just can't compete with the big stores because they do such volume."

Inside, going-out-of-business shoppers bustled like the store's old holiday shopping crowds.

"We come here every year for Christmas shopping," said Christine Kitson of Pike Creek. "They often had things no other store had."

After selecting Scout neckerchiefs for sons Christopher, 12, and Thomas, 10, she said, "My husband came here all his life."

"Why is it closing?" Thomas asked. His big brother replied, "Because people are buying their hobby stuff online."

The boys said they will miss the place. "I like looking at all the model trains here," Christopher said, then Thomas finished the sentence, "And I liked playing with the setup."

Founder John "Ray" Mitchell, who died in 1983, learned the business working at Woolworth's in Danville, Pa., Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Asbury Park, N.J., before he joined J.J. Newberry Co. as a store manager in Asbury Park.

It was his decision to open his own store in 1953 that created a Delaware tradition.

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