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Reinventing Retail … How to survive through Phase 2

New Summer Hours

John Janosko has begun to help in the shop and will be the Train Buddy when I am not able. John and I go back some 20 odd years (and yes, they have been odd!). He was the one that helped me at shows when we were still doing them so he is very familiar with the stock and the products. Of course he is an avid model railroader with years of experience. John is also knowledgeable with Digital Command Control and his past work experience with telephony which includes troubleshooting, wiring and electronic equipment makes him more than just a seat-warmer. He is a past president of the National Model Railroad Association, Mid-East Region as well as past superintendent of the local Carolina Piedmont Division 13. John is a valuable asset to the Train Buddy and we are more than pleased to have his assistance.

In order to keep the business available for walk-in traffic we will try to keep a few open hours. Our new hours will be:

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1:00PM until 3:30PM.

These are usually our busiest hours anyway. All other times are by appointment as we cannot predict when we will be called away to doctor’s appointments that we must keep. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

Safe Retail

In compliance with North Carolina COVID-19 Phase 2 opening through Friday, August 7, 2020 we have changed our status to Open, Phase 2 protocol.

Under these guidelines the following will be observed during your visit:
(in continuance of Phase 1)

1. x’s will be on the floor to guide you in maintaining a 6 foot perimeter between possible virus breading entities.

2. No more than 10 people will be allowed in the shop at the same time. (like this is likely to happen)

3. Masks will be worn at all times.

4. You may elect to have your purchase brought curb-side. Hands free curb-side checkout is available.

If you don’t want to fool with this then we will still ship or you can pick up at the shop either through the above or pickup in the drive. We will have curb-side delivery upon request or, if you wish, we will ship to you. The shipping cost will be whatever the post office charges. We will not charge any handling fees unless it is through the website which has ship charge rules based on value of the product, not actual.

Sanitation – Your health is our top priority

We have maintained a sanitation level that most other retail facilities envy. Since our clientele are typically older and have other health related sensitivities to the virus, our concerns have dictated the following state-of-the-technology changes:
1. All “shared” touch surfaces are sanitized with 70% alcohol after each customer. This includes, exterior door knobs (coming and going), check out counter, counter stool (note the singular), and bathroom door knob, all with appropriate signage. Bathroom has available wash facility with disposable towels and soap with appropriate signage.
2. CHECKOUT. I believe that this is the most under sanitized area and that most businesses and clients have overlooked the obvious “shared” surface in the credit/debit card or payment process.
a. NO-TOUCH. The machine itself should not be touched if possible. Our checkout machine accepts cards that have been set for all major touch-less systems like Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay (NFC technology), EMV (chip and pin) technology and MTS (Mobile TeleSystems).
b. Sanitize your card. We have the capability upon request to sanitize your card before and/or after use with UV-C (256 nm wavelength) light. This is hospital-grade sanitation. We also, sanitize the chip slot, if used, and the keypad, if used. We also provide sanitized touch-free stylus pens in the store for those that don’t have their own personal stylus.
We have backup sanitation for these methods if required.
3. AIR. Yes, we are even cleaning the air. Even if you do not have, want to use or forgot a mask, we are cleaning the air with 3 stage HEPA and carbon filter with UV-C light to mitigate even a hint that there might be viruses lingering in our shop.

A Few Changes to our schedule

1. We will not be accepting new “projects” until our backlog of promised projects has been completed. This, with our current backlog, will extend past the summer and into the late autumn as a minimum. We started taking in decoder installs, painting projects, electronic projects, mechanical and electrical repairs as a service to our good customers. We have logged well over a thousand installs of DCC decoders both sound and non-sound over the years. In recent times this capability has been challenged to do things that were never intended. The main issue, allowing otherwise good customers to utilize my good nature to troubleshoot and fix a product not purchased at the shop. I must stop doing this, at least without adequate compensation. The rates for this service (not available until at least late autumn) will be dictated by time and my previous rate, since 2010 at least, was $49.95. Our revised rate (for new services or projects) will be $74.95. Minimum bench fee for a “look see” will now be $40.00 to be applied to services needed if appropriate.

2. We have, in the past, allowed customers to pre-order large purchases, usually engines, without a deposit. We will now require a 50% deposit on all products that are considered non-stock items. Usually engines but also most detail parts, buildings, vehicles, electronics and figures are non-stock. We will not purchase for a customer any item from eBay, Amazon or other manufacture that is not already a Train Buddy partner. We will also not entertain new vendor partners as we have in the past. We hope this is a short-term policy because …

3. We are entertaining new partners to our business model as we grow. I am looking for one or two other model railroad enthusiasts to partner with me to expand, help, move and ultimately to enjoy the business with me. This is my 16th year in the business and I am ready to “Share the Joy of Model Railroading” with anyone who is willing. Believe it or not, I am not looking for a financial stake at this time but only a lessening of my ever-expanding time demands that have drained my soul to the point of not enjoying my customer interactions. Several familiar faces are already helping out in this time including my good friends John Janosko and Chris Numa recently. Dave Mellor, Bill Bernecki, and Royce Lacey have been very helpful in the past and offer their assistance, of which I always appreciate, even when I don’t mention it, when they can. Felix Martinez and Grif Bond continue to help when they are not otherwise working.

4. Unfortunately, and I kinda knew this was coming, we are going to have to discontinue the Friday get-together or open house, at least until they find a suitable vaccine and/or cure which could be as much as a couple of years if the predictions hold out. My wife and I have had to give up a few other regular social interactions that may never be resumed, ever.

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2020 Assessing Our Obligations

COVID-19, riots and now curfews are reasons that many retail stores are failing.  The Train Buddy Shop has been doing ok but several additional factors have created a situation that has changed our operations.  Our family is addressing  some non-COVID medical issues and we cannot be open to the public on a regular schedule.

1. We will continue to complete our service obligations.

2. We will be contacting those that have items that have been purchased in the past and are waiting in our pick up area.

3. If you are waiting for items that you have ordered then we will continue to insure that those items are received and delivered.

4. We will continue to entertain visits to our showroom as time and law permits.

Please stay safe and keep modeling.

Posted on

Reinventing Retail! Open, Phase 1

Safe Retail

In compliance with the phase 1 opening of May 8th, 202 we have changed our status to Open, Phase 1 protocol.

Under these guidelines the following will be observed during your visit:
1. x’s will be on the floor to guide you in maintaining a 6 foot perimeter between possible virus breading entities. If you have been to our shop then you know that this means that there will only be 11 places to stand. This follows the law that there cannot be more than 10 in the shop at one time and we only have capacity for 10 because c=n-1 (capacity of a railroad = number of available blocks -1). In the railroad business this is ABS although we will not (although we could) implement block signaling. Come see us for a clinic if you didn’t understand this.
2. You must obtain a “track warrant” to enter. i.e. you may queue outside (again, maintaining safe distances) until cleared by management. In the railroad business it means you have to have a piece of paper (in our case just permission, usually by phone call to the Train Buddy) to enter an area. This is usually the top head on a signal and would be cool to have outside the business.

If you don’t want to fool with this then we will still ship or you can pick up at the shop either through the above or pickup in the drive. We will have curb-side delivery upon request or, if you wish, we will ship to you. The shipping cost will be whatever the post office charges. We will not charge any handling fees unless it is through the website which has ship charge rules based on value of the product, not actual.

Sanitation – Your health is our top priority

We have maintained a sanitation level that most other retail facilities envy. Since our clientele are typically older and have other health related sensitivities to the virus, our concerns have dictated the following state-of-the-technology changes:
1. All “shared” touch surfaces are sanitized with 70% alcohol after each customer. This includes, exterior door knobs (coming and going), check out counter, counter stool (note the singular), and bathroom door knob, all with appropriate signage. Bathroom has available wash facility with disposable towels and soap with appropriate signage.
2. CHECKOUT. I believe that this is the most under sanitized area and that most businesses and clients have overlooked the obvious “shared” surface in the credit/debit card or payment process.
a. NO-TOUCH. The machine itself should not be touched if possible. Our checkout machine accepts cards that have been set for all major touch-less systems like Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay (NFC technology), EMV (chip and pin) technology and MTS (Mobile TeleSystems).
b. Sanitize your card. We have the capability upon request to sanitize your card before and/or after use with UV-C (256 nm wavelength) light. This is hospital-grade sanitation. We also, sanitize the chip slot, if used, and the keypad, if used. We also provide sanitized touch-free stylus pens in the store for those that don’t have their own personal stylus.
We have backup sanitation for these methods if required.
3. AIR. Yes, we are even cleaning the air. Even if you do not have, want to use or forgot a mask, we are cleaning the air with 3 stage HEPA and carbon filter with UV-C light to mitigate even a hint that there might be viruses lingering in our shop.

New Displays

To utilize our time away we expended a great deal of energy restocking and refurbishing our store. We added approximately 140 square feet of display space to our front showroom. This is an increase of about 50% to our scenery, track and electronics area with accents on our new product line from Berrett Hill, NCE and others that have taken a back seat because of lack of space. If nothing else, as you slowly crawl out from under that rock, come have a look-see. As always, “Welcome to the Train Buddy shop. We are delighted to see you.”

A Few Uncomfortable Changes

Our business has, believe it or not, increased dramatically in the past few months, even with the virus block. Unfortunately for our customers, several “business as usual” things MUST change.
1. We will not be accepting new “projects” until our backlog of promised projects has been completed. This, with our current backlog, will extend past the summer and into the late autumn as a minimum. We started taking in decoder installs, painting projects, electronic projects, mechanical and electrical repairs as a service to our good customers. We have logged well over a thousand installs of DCC decoders both sound and non-sound over the years. In recent times this capability has been challenged to do things that were never intended. The main issue, allowing otherwise good customers to utilize my good nature to troubleshoot and fix a product not purchased at the shop. I must stop doing this, at least without adequate compensation. The rates for this service (not available until at least late autumn) will be dictated by time and my previous rate, since 2010 at least, was $49.95. Our revised rate (for new services or projects) will be $74.95. Minimum bench fee for a “look see” will now be $40.00 to be applied to services needed if appropriate.
2. We have, in the past, allowed customers to pre-order large purchases, usually engines, without a deposit. We will now require a 50% deposit on all products that are considered non-stock items. Usually engines but also most detail parts, buildings, vehicles, electronics and figures are non-stock. We will not purchase for a customer any item from eBay, Amazon or other manufacture that is not already a Train Buddy partner. We will also not entertain new vendor partners as we have in the past. We hope this is a short-term policy because …
3. We are entertaining new partners to our business model as we grow. I am looking for one or two other model railroad enthusiasts to partner with me to expand, help, move and ultimately to enjoy the business with me. This is my 16th year in the business and I am ready to “Share the Joy of Model Railroading” with anyone who is willing. Believe it or not, I am not looking for a financial stake at this time but only a lessening of my ever-expanding time demands that have drained my soul to the point of not enjoying my customer interactions. Several familiar faces are already helping out in this time including my good friends John Janosko and Chris Numa recently. Dave Mellor, Bill Bernecki, and Royce Lacey have been very helpful in the past and offer their assistance, of which I always appreciate, even when I don’t mention it, when they can. Felix Martinez and Grif Bond continue to help when they are not otherwise working.
4. Unfortunately, and I kinda knew this was coming, we are going to have to discontinue the Friday get-together or open house, at least until they find a suitable vaccine and/or cure which could be as much as a couple of years if the predictions hold out. My wife and I have had to give up a few other regular social interactions that may never be resumed, ever.