By Mike Wolfe

In 1932, Perry Agerter bought Magazine Exchange, a gift and magazine shop across the street from the Eugene Hospital. Since then, four more generations of the Agerter family have helped turn that small business into Eugene Toy & Hobby, Eugene’s full-service toy and hobby store.

The transformative moment the family decided to add toys and other recreations to the inventory is not exactly known, but starting in 1936, Magazine Exchange announced that Monopoly games could be purchased there for $1.98. The effort was successful, and soon the store began to offer a wider variety of toys and games.

A look at newspaper advertisements for Magazine Exchange through those years provides a walk down the “memory lane” of toy culture. In 1938, the ads featured Chinese Checkers, footballs, and roller skates. In 1939, the store offered model airplanes with all the necessary elements, such as glue and paint. The year 1941 brought Tinker Toys. As each year passed, more and more toys, games, and hobby equipment filled the shelves. The business continued to expand with electric trains and the buildings and scenery that helped model railroaders make their layouts special and unique. Not long after, the store began to carry scientific toys and instruments, such as chemistry sets, microscopes, and telescopes.

Some items for sale reflected the changes in customer tastes over time. The store sold Geiger counters to Atomic Age uranium prospectors, model rockets to Space Agers, and phonographs to Beatles fans. Certain offerings from the early 1960s might seem unusual today, such as a candy cigarette vending bank, a nurse kit with candy “pills,” or a toy atomic warship that promised “a whole shipload of naval fun” for $1.88.

While it’s important for any business to keep up with what’s new, however, it’s also necessary to keep the “best of the best,” the classic items that have become beloved by multiple generations. Visitors to Eugene Toy & Hobby today will see not only what’s popular now, including the very latest quadcopters and remote control cars and airplanes, but they’ll also find traditional toys such as stuffed animals, coloring books, model cars, doll houses, and pogo sticks—and it’s still possible to buy a Monopoly game, too, just as it was in 1936.

This sensitivity to the wishes of its customer base is due to the fact that several generations of the Agerter family have remained at the helm of the business through almost nine decades. The Agerters and their staff know the needs of their clientele far better than is possible for mass marketers, and by providing personalized service and product knowledge that cannot typically be found in superstores or in dealing with gigantic online enterprises, they make it easy for people to “buy local” and to keep their dollars circulating in the area.

Additionally, unlike the big-box stores, if something goes wrong, Eugene Toy & Hobby has technicians on-site to help. When remote control vehicles crash into telephone poles or electric locomotives struggle to pull their trains, there are people at the store who can assess the damage and make repairs at a reasonable rate.

More than 80 years after it all started, Eugene Toy & Hobby is now at 32 E 11th Avenue, just around the corner from where Magazine Exchange once stood. The business changed locations numerous times and stopped carrying magazines long ago, but some things are constant, including the high levels of product variety and quality, and the Agerter family’s continuing commitment to outstanding customer service that has made Eugene Toy & Hobby an important part of Eugene’s business community since 1932.   

32 E 11th Ave.