Grand Forks' Rydell Toy Shop moves to a different location
Hot rods line the walls of the new Rydell Toy Shop in Grand Forks. Long-term plans call for a person to give tours of the facility during business hours. Short-term plans call for a person to periodically provide tours.
GRAND FORKS — When John McLaughlin finished showing about 20 hot rods on display in front of the new Rydell Toy Shop location, he wanted to make one thing clear:
"It’s a showroom, is what it is," manager McLaughlin said. "It’s not a museum. These cars get driven and used."
The Toy Shop has made enough repairs and updates to cars in the hot rod collection to verify McLaughlin's point. Just the other day, they were working on a hot rod, Agness, that is on its third drivetrain since McLaughlin started at the business five years ago.
The team is always working on retooling inventory while at the same time tearing down and producing its new hot rods. Now, they're doing it all at a new location.
The Rydell Toy Shop has moved from the Rydell Chevrolet site at 2700 South Washington Street a few blocks to the north at 1900 South Washington, the former Kmart location.
It's going to be a major change for people interested in seeing the hot rods. Long-term plans call for a person to give tours of the facility during business hours. Short-term plans call for a person to periodically provide tours.
McLaughlin said a sign will be posted in front of the building in the future, allowing those interested to call a number to sign up for tours (free of charge).
When the business was located on the Rydell Chevrolet site, people would occasionally walk in for tours. Now one can catch a good glimpse of the cars through a big bay window at the old Kmart, which has been transformed into the Midtown Commons strip mall.
In addition to building hot rods for Wes Rydell and his sons, Brian and Bob, the toy shop does have outside customers. At some point, the number of outside customers must grow.
"Someday, when Wes is gone, all that he has built, and it's not a business that can stand on its own, what’s going to happen?" McLaughlin said. "If it’s a business that can stand on its own, then the legacy that Wes built can be here forever.
"That’s what we are going to do. I feel that’s why we are here."
Wes Rydell is a former award-winning drag racer. After he retired from racing, he transformed into a hot-rod-making machine. In 2014, he won the 2014 America's Most Beautiful Roadster Award, or AMBR Trophy, with his 1935 Chevrolet Phaeton. It's one of the hot rods on display in the showroom.
Chip Foose, of world-renowned Foose Design, designed the car, and Rad Rides by Troy (Trepanier) built it. Rydell Toy Shop employees Tommy Marcotte (painter) and Doug Peterson (body shaper) contributed heavily to the build and subsequent win.
The AMBR is one of the most highly regarded trophies in the show car world along with "The Ridler."
It so happens that Rydell also won "The Ridler" in 2002 with a 1935 Chevrolet Master. This award is the pinnacle of automotive success. Foose, Peterson and Marcotte led the project.
The Ridler award is presented to the best first-time shown entry at the annual Detroit AutoRama and is considered a designer’s highest profile award.
Based on a 1935 Chevrolet Master two-door sedan, the body was completely retailored and handcrafted from steel. Only parts of the fenders and small portions of the roof remain from the original car.
Wes Rydell calls it the "Grand Master."
"When the Grand Master was completed in 2002, in collaboration with the guys here in the toy shop and Chip Fosse, and won the Ridler Award, it changed what it takes to win. It reset the bar," McLaughlin said. "And the car is still relevant today."
The award is one of the many automotive highlights in the life of Wes Rydell. Cars and helping those in addiction recovery are among his passions.
"Wes is into innovation and figuring out how to make things better — kind of like he does in the business world and in his addiction-counseling work.
"We work with builders around the country today to achieve Wes’ expectations and vision. He has been successful in business and has been successful personally helping many, many people in addition to being very influential in the hot rod world."