- G & G Model Shop opened it's doors in 1945 with owners George and Dorothy Morrison. The original shop location was located at 4009 Almeda in Houston, TX. The shop began out of their home living room and Mr. Morrison rolled out the display cases to the porch everyday.
- G & G Model Shop moved to a more permanant store 1948 as owners George and Dorothy Morrison realized G & G had become a go to stop for hobbyist. This location was located at 1523 Isabella in Houston, TX, just a few short blocks from its original location.
- Early advertising flyer highlighting toy trains as not just a Christmas item but fun all year.
- Our next move was to the Rice Village. On March 1st, 1952 we had our grand opening at 2533 Times Boulevard. We had lots of room and being in the heart of West University, our business became a hit.
- Our next move was to our next location, which was convinently right across the street. On April 26th, 1954 we had our grand opening at 2522 Times Boulevard. Having more room than 2533, this gave us freedom to carry more stock and have displays of models and trains alike. (Click on the image of the store to navigate the interior)
- Mr. Morrison talks about model planes in this article from 1959 and almost spills the beans about the meaning of G & G.
- Gus talks to Kitty Kendall about G & G Model Shop and his knack for repairing trains.
- G & G opens up a satellite location inside the newly built, Sharpstown Mall.
- Holiday advertisement from the paper celebrating 25 years in the hobby business.
G&G Model Shop
By Mary Taylor
Are you keeping up with your neighborhood? Is the inventory applicable to the customers? Gus Freitag at G&G Model Shop has noticed a change in the neighborhood. As a result this Houston shop will be watching its inventory to see that it continues to meet the customers' needs.
G&G is located in an older neighborhood in Houston. The shop opened in 1952 at its present location. Customers were adults then, men who built trains, the total inventory in the early days. "It was strictly a train store that was adult trade. All those trains had to be built," Freitag explains. "We've never said that we are an adult store. It seems like it worked that way with the merchandise that we carry."
He continues, "The younger generation is beginning to move back in here and we are getting more into plastics." Kids on bikes and on foot are now visiting the shop. "Before you could drive up and down the streets and never see a kid," he said. But now with kids in the neighborhood, plastic sales are on the increase.
Another growing market for plastic kits is made up by local dwellers. Now upper-income apartments and townhouses are being built in this inner city neighborhood. "You get a lot of apartment people who are not into R/C and not into trains. They will build plastic models," he comments. "That's why our plastic business has come up a little bit."
The mainstay of the shop is HO railroading. Freitag has the HO equipment at the front of the store and he usually stays up there. He has the technical knowledge and the time to help people. "We can help somebody if they run into problems. I think that's what keeps people coming back year after year," he says.
At the rear of the store is the R/C department. Jerry Heller is an expert in radio control. He has been with the store for 24 years. He finds that he helps the beginning R/C'ers more than anyone else. "We do a lot of work with beginners," Jerry says.
Freitag notes that people will often buy their R/C engines by mail. "We miss a lot of big sales in R/C because of the discounts in magazine ads," he reports. The shop specializes in R/C parts and hardware, since Freitag feels that is where he can compete best with the mail discounters. "A guy will send off and get an engine for his plane pretty cheap but he needs hardware. He likes to see it and pick it out."
Even the railroading products that have been taken over by discount houses remain a big business at G&G Model Shop. Since the mass merchandisers carry Lionel sets at Christmas, the store specializes in the better Lionel sets and in accessories. "We carry the better sets and then all the individual items that the mass merchandisers don't want to mess with," says Freitag. He has noticed an upswing in Lionel buying. "Our Lionel business the last few years has been very good, comparable to back in the 50's," he adds. The children in the 60's were more "science-minded," according to Freitag; they thought trains were for babies. He thinks that the kids in the 50's who had trains remember them and want them for their children. "The people who were kids in the 50's, now it's their turn to buy for their kids."
The best months at G&G Model Shop are December and January. However, contrary to sales patterns in stores further north, summer is also a good time for the hobby business in Houston. While cold weather restricts people up north in the winter time, the heat will keep people inside during the Texas summers. "In June, July and August, they'll stay in the air conditioning to work on their model," comments Freitag. Rockets are a good summer business. Children from 8-9 years and up as well as adults buy the rockets to build in the summer.
G&G is the only hobby store in town that stocks architectural supplies. Model building departments at several architectural firms buy their supplies at G&G. The store is a few blocks from Rice University and the engineering students buy at G&G also. "Fortunately none of the other stores feel like they want to mess with it," he says. The problem in stocking architectural supplies is storing and displaying the inventory. Freitag has built two special display cabinets to hold the supplies.
"Snap-a-roos" and Matchbox cars are stocked for the little children. Freitag keeps these on hand for children who come in with their fathers.
The 1500 square foot store is outstanding for its neatness. Freitag has built cabinets to hold the small items stored behind the counters, and he makes sure that all items are kept in their place.
Items that are out of reach to the customer are marked with price cards with 1 ½-inch to 2-inch black letters. Items may be in a glass case or on a shelf behind the counters, but the price is easily readable from a distance.
G&G employees ask all customers if they want a bag for their purchases. "A lot of your men would just as soon not have a bag," Freitag notes. Asking about a bag saves on this expense. Often kits are sold and carried out with only a sales receipt. Children on bikes are more likely to need a bag than adults. As an extra service, G&G offers free gift wrapping if the customer requests it.
Besides Gus and Jerry, wife Rhoda Freitag and Nita Ankenbruck work in the store. Freitag credits women employees with keeping the store neat. He also feels that they make good salespeople because make customers do not mind explain to a woman what they want to purchase. "A lady who knows what she is selling can outsell a man," he says. "Customers feel like they can unload on somebody. They go up to my wife and my sister and ask them."
Freitag describes his own sales philosophy this way: "Treat everybody alike, you basically try to help them." He notes that even if a customer has a small technical problem, it may seem very big to that customer. The retailer should treat each hobby problem seriously. "We try to make more friends than we make money, which has paid off over the years."
Endurance of a shop may depend on anticipating the customers' needs and noting the changing complexion of the neighborhood. G&G Model Shop started out selling trains, then went into other adult-style hobbies. Now with more children in the neighborhood, they are seeing an upswing in plastics trade and will stock accordingly.
Stay tuned for our history from the 80s.
- Gus talks with Robert Damora from ThisWeek about G & G Model Shop and its influence on scratch builders.
- G & G Model Shop goes the old ballgame. The Houston Astros defeated the Cleveland Indians 6 - 2 in front of a hometown crowd of 25,661.
- HOUSTON PRESS - Best Hobby Shop
- If you designed the world, things would be different; you'd get it right. And even if you're only designing a world in miniature, you want it to be flawless. That's why you need G&G. Since 1945, the little shop in the Rice Village has been staffed by hobbyists, and their obvious obsession is all to the good. G&G excels at trains, from the large Lionel sets to the tiny N scale popular in Europe. The store also stocks toy soldiers from Europe and everything needed for architectural models - even the tiny trees. Plastic airplane models range from relatively inexpensive German and Japanese kits to the highly detailed varieties that command 40 and 50 bucks. Alas, G&G phased out radio-controlled planes after its longtime expert retired: If they can't do something properly, they won't do it at all. And that's a comforting notion. Because if you can't rely on the small-scale world for perfection, where else can you hope to find it?
- HOUSTON PRESS - Best Toy Store
- Stepping into this little orange-and-brown shop in the Rice Village is like stepping back into 1954. Makes sense. That's when G&G moved into its current location. The cozy, jam-packed store has an endearing, musty quality to it. But the selection is second to none. Anything you ever wanted in model trains, boats or cars is here, displayed on shelves or housed behind glass (check out the Johnny Cash railroad car!). There's also a fine collection of magazines and journals for the model enthusiast, not to mention the huge supply of craft supplies: paint, glue, wood, etc. Not into trains or cars? Never fear. You can always purchase the Giant Volcano. The packaging promises you can "build and erupt your own volcano in 20 minutes." Now, who doesn't want to try that?
- HOUSTON PRESS - Best Hobby Shop
- Hobby shops have become huge chain stores these days. Rice Village has become a charmless strip of overpriced Gap-like outlets. So it's a little bit surprising that tear-it-down Houston has a charming old-timey hobby shop, and that it's in Rice Village. G&G has been around since TV was new (it has the retro sign to prove it) and specializes in trains, airplanes and other modeling minutiae. Says one hobbyist we know, "Hobby shops, like the neighborhood drugstore, are an anachronism now that Internet stores can sell for so much cheaper. But what you miss by not supporting your local hobby shop is being able to hang around, swap tips with other modelers, ask advice from proprietors, that kind of thing." And that's just the "kind of thing" that G&G specializes in. Long may it do so.
With a heavy heart, I want to inform all of our loyal customers and friends of G & G Model Shop that our patriarch and my father, Gus Freitag, passed away peacefully on March 21, 2019. He loved working at the shop. It was truly his second home.
Gus was many things to many people. He was a husband, a father, a brother, a friend and a fellow model railroader. You could often find him either sitting on his stool, greeting customers coming into G&G, or up in his HO scale model railroad layout, working on scenery, laying track, scratch building or out in his yard, working in his gardens.
Gus is survived by his wife of 71 years, Rhoda, and children, Derwood Freitag, Rhonda Herrington, Deb Jaska and Diane Kopfensteiner as well as by twelve grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Gus attended St. Thomas High School where he graduated early to join the Navy in 1944. He was assigned to the USS Alabama and served for the next two years. Up until two years ago, he made his yearly pilgrimage to visit the Alabama to remember and celebrate the victories of WWII with his fellow crewmates.
Gus will always live on through his family, friends and customers of G & G Model Shop.
Diane, Keith, Jack, Gary, Richard and Thomas
RIP, and may his family and friends find comfort of this loss soon.
I'm so sorry for your lost Diane. He was a real special guy. Loved by all of us who knew him.
So sory to hear this, Gus was the go to guy for trains and all the questions Ive ever had. He always was a friendly person and very knowledgeable in every aspect of the various hobbies he sold there. Gonna miss him. God bless you guys.
I am so sorry for the loss of your father.
Always a pleasant man...made my visits to the shop a welcome experience with his conversation... Peace to your family
I've only ever been in your shop once, when I was passing through Texas coming home from seeing relatives. He and the others there were extremely helpful to a modeler just getting into the hobby. Thank you, and RIP good sir.
Joseph Edward T.
This was always my No.1 hobby shop
I am so sorry. Gus was the best. Helped me get an A+ on an architectural project for my 6th grade science fair. He was a legend.
So sad. I know my Dad knew Gus. I shared with you that my father was a lifelong customer of G&G and he passed away in November. Was Gus the employee who the original owner left the store to upon his death? I believe that is what my Dad told me had happened.
I only recently met him, and I am saddened to hear this news. Rest in Peace Gus. May the angels carry you onward to home.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. I always liked visiting with Gus and Gil both during the different open house events.
Super nice guy. Rip Gus!!
Condolences. Best wishes to all of you.
So sad to hear this news. Gus had been a fixture and a tremendous help at G&G since I was a kid. My sincere condolences to all his familyand friends, he will be truly missed.
All the freitags are in our prayers
I’m very sorry to hear this Gus was a dear friend of mine
Im sad for your loss. Glad i had the chance to meet and talk to him. Hell of a guy!
My deepest condolences.
Sorry for you Gretchen.
Heartbreaking news. I bought my first locomotive from Gus when I came to Houston in 1999. My daughters grew up loving to come see Mr. Gus and getting gumdrops. A life well spent and he’ll be sorely missed.
Condolences to Gil and Virginia.
Rhonda, I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. You are in my prayers.
Gus was a great gentleman; always willing to answer any question. Been a customer since I was 10. A Houston institution !
Prayers goes out to his family
Condolences to you, Rhonda Herrington. May wonderful memories sustain you.
I’m very sorry for the families loss. I love visiting G&G! Be strong and never forget!
I'm blessed to have known Gus and honored to have called him a friend
Eternal rest is his now. Hope there is a beautiful celebration of his life, Deb.
Loved talking to him when I would visit the shop. Always a smile on his face. RIP my friend
Thank you for the many happy memories Gus.
I did have the pleasure to meet Gus some time ago. He was very full of knowledge and great to talk to. Farewell, sir.
So sorry to hear this news. He was a fixture at the store for many years, and even after moving to Tennessee, I’d always drop in at the store to see him when I was in town.
I’m so sorry. My condolences to you and your family.
My sincere condolences to the family.
Glad to see while the store has relocated the iconic sign remains atop the Times Street address.
Diane so sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your family.
I’m so sorry to hear this news Diane, you are all in our thoughts and prayers.
So sorry to hear.. spent many saturdays at G&G.. a major part of my childhood/teen years.. known Mr Freitag since i was about 10 yrs old..
So sorry for your loss. Prayers.
Condolences to you and your family.
Sending my sympathy and condolences. Indeed, Y'all have so many wonderful memories and I can remember many visits to the shop myself. I will remember Gus in my mass this week at holy names University.
Thanks for all the memories Gus
My condolences to the family. I know he will be missed.
I am so sorry to hear of you father's passing. Prayers for the entire family.
So sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your family.
Condolences to the family. My dad visited this shop often - with me in tow.
I am sorry for your loss
I’m so sorry! Please pass along my condolences to everyone. Wish I could be there to hug you all in person.
So sorry for your loss
My thoughts are with you and yours, Deb. Prayers to all.
I am truly sad to hear of Gus passing. He was that friendly gentleman to this then very young boy. I lived in Houston from 1966 to 1989 and G&G was a paradise to me. Aurora tanks and die-cast cars were my favorites. Gus would sometimes share with me his train stories, and I marveled at the train set up in the store. Always friendly and patient. It was the highlight of my younger days to come and shop at G&G. God bless you Gus, and condolences to his family.
Prayers for y'all.
So sorry to hear this news. But what a wonderful man and life. Blessings to you all.
Diane, I was so sorry to hear about your dad this morning at BLA. You all are in our prayers.
I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. Sending thoughts and prayers.
A wonderful loving brother/brother-in-law who will remain in our hearts forever
Rachel and Diane I am so sorry for your loss. I remember so many times dropping off and picking Rachel up from the shop! Loved your family ??
So sorry to hear this. He will be missed. Praying for your family!
My prayers go out to Gus and his family
I am sorry for your loss. I have many memories of Gus from the original location. May his soul rest in peace. My condolences to his family. G & G Model Shop is truly a Houston institution. Visits to that shop and the new location are always a special treat. I feel as if I am stepping back to my own youth. I began assembling plastic model airplanes in 1955. Visits to G & G Model Shop allow me to become a time traveler on a regular basis. Thank you!
Amelia, I am so sorry! Please give your mom a hug from me!
So much love to Diane and the family!!!
Diane, what a loss for you and family! His spirit, love and dedication is inspirational, and will shine in your lives forever!
My condolences. I always appreciated his help.
My sympathy to my friends at G&G. Gus was the core of the Houston modeling and railroad community for decades.
Words can never express our sadness over the passing of Gus. Our thoughts, sympathies, prayers, and condolences go out to Gus’ family and all at G&G Model Shop in this time of sadness. I will always remember his smiles, how he greeted us warmly whenever we came in, and, like everyone else at the store, was so helpful. We will all miss his expertise on model trains and other matters. I purchased many great model trains from him and others at the store. I’m so sorry for being late with this. With deepest sympathies.
I’m sorry for yalls lost
I shopped there when I was a kid. That was a long time ago, during World War II.
My condolences to the Freitag family. I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandparents in West University in the mid 1960s, and often would walk to G&G just to look at the merchandise. I was bitten by the Lionel bug bad as a youngster, and that was the place I would go for repairs of my trains. I recall when I got into train collecting big time in the late 1980s, I asked Gus once while visiting what he thought about the Great American Train Show as a place to go to find some real treasures. He didn't exactly say "don't waste your time" but he did say "It's just a big flea market!" I still laugh when I think of that story. God bless you Gus and family.