MILLVALE (KDKA) — A sidewalk bench in front of Esther’s Hobby Shop in Millvale has a simple message for a busy world. An inscription on the bench reads: “Relax with a hobby.”

Bob Mehler, 82, was in his teens when he started working in the variety store his mother Esther opened in 1938.

Now a hobby shop owner, he says it’s all about “learning how to slow down. And you can do that by a paint-by-number picture, building a model airplane, or putting a model train display together.”

Customer Bill Dedig has built enough model planes to fill a room in his house in Etna.

“Instead of sitting there, going on the Internet and waiting, and doing pre-planning,” he says, “on a whim we’re driving by and say ‘Hey, let’s stop down at Esther’s.'”

John O’Brien comes from Brighton Heights for the hobby shop’s specialty, a vast selection of tiny N-scale model trains.

“You go to these other hobby shops around here,” O’Brien says, “they got one little small aisle. There’s no selection. You have to order it. So I come here, I get what I want, and I go home.”

Mehler intends to keep Esther’s open “come heck or high water.”

Speaking of high water, the flood waters of Hurricane Ivan turned North Avenue in to a fast-moving river on Sept. 17, 2004.

Though most of his inventory was destroyed, Mehler refused to give up.

“I did open up two weeks before Christmas in ’04,” he says. “And that’s what friends are for.”

The keeper of the model trains has not yet reached the end of the line.

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