Where in Malden have Neil Young, Frank Sinatra, members of the Red Sox, Patriots and former Bruins players all done their shopping? The answer is Charles Ro!
The Charles Ro Supply Company is the largest Lionel train store in the United States. Located at 662 Cross St. in Malden since 1989 and clearly visible from Route 60, the one-block-long, three-story building consists of 50,000 square feet of retail and mail order operations for the Charles Ro Supply Company, and a manufacturing plant for their own USA Train line, according to the Charles Ro website.
Forty-four years ago Charles Ro, a train hobbyist, began selling used trains out of a glass case in his hair salon. It was one of four salons that he and his wife, both hair stylists, owned in Everett, MA. Orders were taken from a wall phone, “handwritten, packed and weighed on a bathroom scale.”
In 1980, Charles Ro, Jr. joined his father to help as the business expanded and they moved into an old A&P supermarket at 347A Pleasant Street in Malden. In 1987, they began to manufacture their own “garden sized” European-styled trains that were larger than Lionel, for outdoor use, as they became in demand in the United States.
Charles Ro continued to grow into an international business that today, says Charles, Jr., ships to Japan, Germany, other parts of Europe, and its largest international customer, Canada. As noted on the website they also began to win a series of awards for their USA Train products and now create hundreds of items that are described in their 144-page catalog. The store also offers American Flyer, Bridgewerks, Thomas the Tank Engine and any hard-to-find train set.
In 2011, Reader’s Digest Canada, made it number 8 on the list of “10 Coolest Toy Stores in the World” along with FAO Schwarz and The Lego Store in New York City, Barbie Store in Buenos Aires, Argentina and The Disney Store in London, England.
Upstairs and open to the public on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m is a 16-foot by 32-foot layout so highly detailed that it took one year to complete. Six running trains cross forested mountains and villages as towns people walk, await trains at village depots, fish and more in this fantasy landscape. Definitely an attraction the whole family will enjoy.
Charles Ro Supply Company
662 Cross Street
PO Box 100
Malden, MA 02148
781-321-0090 and 800-225-4425
Monday through Thursday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 – 5:00 pm
Photos and article by Elizabeth Scorsello. Video produced by Elizabeth Scorsello & Julie Kelleher