What little boy doesn't love trains? What parent doesn't love job opportunities? This holiday season it's a little easier to find both, thanks to Lionel, the toy train manufacturer that makes your dad, and even your granddad, wax nostalgic.
The company that's been around since 1900 is emerging from the collectors realm and chugging full steam ahead into a retail presence of its own. Not only will Lionel be hiring store employees, but it's bringing product manufacturing back home to the states as well.
A retail adventureland
Lionel CEO Jerry Calabrese told AOL Jobs that the ultimate plan is for Lionel trains to provide the same kind of retail adventure experience for boys that American Girl provides for little girls, complete with themed displays, entertainment, dining, the works. He says they will be places where parents can bond with their children over something they both love.
"Back in the '30s, '40s and '50s, Lionel train sets were in every home. They were as ubiquitous as the Xbox is today," Calabrese said. "Then in the '70s and '80s, Lionel withdrew from the mass market, and was available only in collectors stores, and eventually online. Now we're making a strong effort to get back into pop culture."
From one to many
The campaign started around 2005, with Lionel trains being displayed prominently in certain department stores during the Christmas season. Last year, Lionel set up an independent, seasonal, brick-and-mortar location in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It was so overwhelmingly popular that the company has added five more "pop up" stores in malls across the United States:
Lionel at the Cherry Hill Mall: 2000 Rt. 38, Cherry Hill, N.J.
Lionel at the Mall of America: 60 East Broadway, Minneapolis, Minn.
Lionel New York: 1095 Avenue of the Americas (41st St), New York, N.Y.
Lionel at the Westchester Mall: 125 Westchester Ave., White Plains, N.Y.
Lionel at The Trains at North Park: Brought to you by the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, 8687 N Central Expy, Dallas, Texas
If you're looking for seasonal work, have sales experience, love trains and live near any of these locations, there are still a limited number of jobs available. To apply, e-mail your resume to PopUp2010@Lionel.com.
Big plans ahead
But these pop-up stores are just the beginning of a long line of expansion for Lionel. They're currently attempting to bring their manufacturing back into the states from overseas, so it looks like more skilled manufacturing jobs could be on the way.
But the prospect that really excites train lovers, from both work and play perspectives, is the advent of the big, destination Lionel train stores. "We see our property as a boys' adventure brand -- an adventure in a box," Calabrese said.
Just as the American Girl dolls have themes, so do the train sets. "Trains are about stories," he added, mentioning Wild West, mining camp themes and more. He thinks they lend themselves perfectly to experiential displays.
So do train lovers, apparently. "When and where does the first one open?" asked 62-year-old Steve Geller, a California resident who has several grandsons and grand nephews. "Looks like we're going to have to take the boys on vacation."