It is lunchtime on a sunny Monday and half a dozen men are looking at toy cars and trains. Not that they would refer to them as toys: these are serious die-cast model enthusiasts.
Stoker Models on Great South Rd in Remuera has been purveying railway sets, model cars, kits, miniature scenery and buildings, books and magazines, glue, paint and other arcane items to enthusiasts for nearly 60 years. Though the shop is now adjacent to the Market Rd offramps, when it first opened for business in 1958 there was no Southern Motorway running behind it. It wasn't until the shop had been open for eight years that the Newmarket Viaduct was opened.
There was no Mr Stoker; instead, the shop is named after the railwaymen who used to shovel coal in steam locomotives. According to current owner John Heremaia, it was opened by a pair of businessmen who also owned a model shop in Mt Eden, and originally specialised in model trains. Heremaia is the fourth owner, having come down from Dargaville to help out his mate who had bought the store for a couple of weeks ... he's still there nearly 27 years later.
It's a family business now; Heremaia mans the counter with his son Colin, who he plans to sell the store to when he retires. There aren't so many trains now: die-cast models are the speciality, with both new and second-hand, collectible items for sale.
And despite a decline in the number of hobby shops around Auckland, Stoker is thriving -- Heremaia estimates the shop turns over about half a million dollars a year.
Though the shop has only changed location once in its lifetime -- it moved from the space next door about 20 years ago -- the mix of stores around it has altered.
"There used to be nine antiques shops around us, now there are nine food bars and cafes," Heremaia says.
The internet has also changed things: Stoker might have 1500-2000 pieces listed on Trade Me at any one time, and about 30 per cent of its business is done this way.
Heremaia admits the clientele is mostly male, but not necessarily ageing.
"We get a lot of parents coming in here looking for something to get their kids off the iPad or computers.
"There's a new model collector born every minute," Colin adds.
"Another train enthusiast dropped off at the station every day."
172 Great South Rd, Remuera