model train set on track

Why not name it “Madison Software?”

e*Train Issue: Jun 2002   |   Posted in:

By Bob Mintz

Living and working in Manhattan as an accountant starting in the late 70s, I went to one particular client each and every Thursday. They were located at 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

So like clockwork, I would go to Polk’s Hobby next door at lunchtime, and then, after work, walk home to Greenwich Village, taking a rather circuitous route down 5th Avenue, past the Lionel showroom, then past 200 Fifth Avenue, the Toy Building, and then east to Park Avenue down 23rd Street.

So where was all of this supposed hardware anyway? The closest thing that I could see would be a key-making machine. Hardly a hardware store, specifically nothing like the Home Depots of today.

If Carl and Lou had been in business today, most likely they would have called the place “Madison Software” and have the Microsoft program “Train Simulator” for sale to justify the name.

So why name the place “Madison Hardware” anyway? Secondly, it wasn’t even on Madison Avenue, but that is yet another story.

In fact, I recall many stores in my old neighborhood in The Bronx that sold Lionel trains in the late 50s, were also hardware or building supply stores. Of course there was also the two branches of Honig’s Parkway on Webster Avenue and White Plains Road off of Allerton Avenue which sold many things, as well as Al’s Camera Store, directly opposite the Honig’s store on Allerton Avenue, the latter store where I used to buy my school supplies, as well as Aurora slot cars. Some camera store!

So I got to thinking, what benefit would it be to call this place a hardware store?

I put my accountant hat on, and I believe that I came up with two scenarios.

Having been married ever so briefly (as a popular sign at York says: “She told me that if I bought one more train, she would leave me…I sure miss her…let’s go work on the layout), perhaps the marketing genius that was Carl and Lou figured that a receipt for hardware that was intercepted by a spouse, could just as easily be explained as a purchase as a home improvement. I doubt that credit cards were as prevalent then as they are today, I only recall Diners Club, so this one may not fly. (Trivia quiz: What was the Visa card originally called? If you said “Bank Americard”, you would be correct-you are NOT the weakest link!)

My only other thought is that one could, if one were to have a “creative accountant” such as Arthur Andersen, and one wanted to commit tax evadence (not be to confused with tax avoidance, which is legal) one might record the cost of “hardware” as a capital improvement to be included as their cost basis on the eventual sale of their residence for tax purposes.

If I were a gambling man, this would be the scenario that I would choose.

Then again, maybe it was a hardware store at one time before 1909, and “the boys” were too cheap to change that damn sign!

all indoor photos of “new Madison Hardware” in Michigan