Toyless Kid now surrounded by them
Burnett County Sentinel, December 22, 2004
CUSHING- “I never had much to play with as a kid.” Bruce Gustafson explains. “but I guess I’m making up for it now.”
Making up for it now is a little tongue-in-cheek for a man with hundreds of farm toys that he can play with anytime he wants.
Bruce Gustafson said he was 32 when he got his first farm toy. “I was admiring a John Deere tractor in a magazine one day when I was having coffee with my mother,” he said, “but Patsy (his wife) and I had four young kids and we didn’t have any money.”
Not too much later a package arrived in the mail from his mother containing the tractor. “That’s the tractor I always wanted when I was a kid,” Bruce Gustafson admits.
It’s not that Bruce Gustafson has a large personal collection of toys, but that initial toy is what started the Gustafsons collecting farm toys.
At one point, Patsy Gustafson said she urged Bruce to buy an entire collection from a Grantsburg man. “It was only 20 or 22 pieces,” Bruce Gustafson recalls, “but we had to take out a small business loan.”
And it’s not just Bruce enjoying the hobby. Patsy Gustafson likes the collecting too.
“It’s fun collecting these toys,” she says, “we have time we can enjoy them ourselves before we pass them on to others to enjoy.”
“When we first started selling toys about five years ago,” Bruce Gustafson said, “we decided to start Leaning Pine Farm Toys and try to make a living at it.”
While the Gustafsons may not be able to retire with their profits from the business, it does pay for itself. To help make ends meet, Bruce does seasonal work at Bass Lake Lumber while Patsy works full-time at Burnett Dairy Co-op.
Bruce Gustafson said the farm toy business is geared to the farming season and to farmers. That’s why most of the toy shows they sell at are in the first third of the year when farmers are not focused on their farms.
Patsy Gustafson said that they did their first show in Turtle Lake five years ago. “We loved it so much we started planning where we’d go for our next show,” she said.
The Gustafsons started selling at shows about the same time they started selling toys five years ago and are now doing between 15 and 20 shows a year. “We just got a Minnesota license and for the first time we did shows there this year,” Patsy Gustafson said.
She added that the shows are a lot of fun. “It’s exciting,” she said with a smile, “we’ll get to a show and it’s a gym full of toys.”
“Most of the time,” Patsy Gustafson continued, “people want (the toy replica of) what their grandpa had when he was farming.”
“People contact is a big part of the business,” Bruce Gustafson explained. As they travel to the different shows, they see the same vendors and have the time to catch up with each other.
In addition to the toy shows, the Gustafsons also host an open house the first weekend of December. The open house is a chance for the Gustafsons to showcase their toy shed. Given the timing, one might think Christmas is a big season for the farm toy business. “A majority of the people at our open house are collectors,” Bruce Gustafson said.
“Collectors can find stuff here they can’t find any other place,” he continued.
Bruce Gustafson said he has even had collectors calling him looking for a particular model of toy, he said, “and sometimes it’s a real challenge to find.”
He said John Deere is the most popular line of farm toys, and there is a lot of product available, International is the second most popular, but Leaning Pine also carries Allis-Chalmers, Oliver and other obscure names, not to mention the pedal tractors.
“There are some farm toys that the manufacturer’s only made a 100 pieces of,” Bruce Gustafson said, “and they are very hard to come by.”
Patsy Gustafson, who likes to say the business is open by chance or appointment, said the couple doesn’t have set hours so they don’t have to be home all the time.
“We want to keep this as a hobby,” she explained, “so we can keep enjoying it.”
Bruce Gustafson agrees with enjoying the business. “This is something we’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
Bruce and Patsy are having so much fun that they
sold their dairy herd three months ago to be able to devote more time
to their farm toy business. Having been dairy farmers for 30 years, one
would think they’d miss it. “I miss the cows,” Bruce
Gustafson said with a smile, “but not the chores.”
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