Perry Agerter took ownership of a small gift shop and magazine stand in downtown Eugene in the late ‘20s. A decade later, Agerter passed the business to his daughter-in-law and son Byron, an unemployed Kansas dustbowl trucker, setting the stage for what would be a family enterprise for decades to come. Byron and his wife, Eva, moved to Eugene in 1933, adding model trains, airplanes, and a few toys to the gift shop inventory, changing the store’s trajectory to where it is today.
Their son, Paul, worked in the gift shop as a youngster in the ‘30s and ’40s as the store moved through various downtown locations. The family likes to say that when Paul returned from Korean military service, he “blew open” the business by shifting largely into toy sales and service. The store settled into its current home in 1969. Byron and Eva retired in 1981, at which point Paul and his sons Mark and Allen took over.
Today at Eugene Toy & Hobby, Mark and Allen still run the store. Allen’s children, Andrew and Emily, are also included in the mix. Together, the family is looking to the future, steering the store through huge marketplace changes and the impact of internet commerce on the toy industry.
While pocket novels may be gone and comics have since disappeared from the store’s shelves, the Agerters say many popular toys from past decades still hold a special place. Tradition balanced with shifting sensibilities. Gundam models—giant hybrid robot/anime characters—are a local obsession. Action figures have staying power; so do kites. Science-oriented toys have their niche. Puzzles are popular. Construction toys—Lincoln Logs, Legos, and their many newer variants—are always in favor.
“And over the last 10 years,” Mark says, “our primary product line is radio-controlled everything.”
“I want to continue doing what we’ve been doing for decades and generations,” adds Andrew. He’s talking about eight decades and five generations already of family business. “We serve our community. But in terms of products, what’s going to take us there, I can’t really say. We’re going to sell what we sell because that’s what got us where we are now.”