Irwin and Nat Polk were immigrant children to the U.S. not too long after the Wright Brothers discovered flight. All the rage at the time was for model building scale models of early aviation and innovations of flight made in scratch built scale models. Soon after there was a plethora of small companies making balsa wood kits, so that more people could enjoy building and flying model airplanes. Nat opened a small hobby shop in Newark in 1930 and Irwin wrote a column for the Hearst Publications about the same and then started the Jr. Birdman of America club for young boys.
Irwin opened a store in New York City on 7th Ave. and it was run by his wife Chuddy, while he kept up his writing for Hearst and others. The store became so busy, that he had Nat close his store in Newark and merged it into the New York City company in 1935. By 1950 they had expanded into a 5 story building on Fifth Avenue, which was the first time a hobby shop came out of the early basements and garages that many of them started in. The store continued to ride the wave of new hobbyists interested in model airplanes and expanded into trains, slot cars, crafts, military miniatures and educational toys.
The Polk brothers distributed to other stores and traveled the world to import hobby products springing up from other makers as the love of miniatures was and is world-wide. Products from such makers as Graupner, Shuco-Hegi, Kibri, Vollmer, Preiser, Willesco, Rivarossi, Lima, Scalextric, Jetex, Constructo, Trix and many others became staples at Polk's and then on to hobby shops all over America.
Irwin had developed a relationship with Mabuchi Motors and directed their American sales as the company grew from 8 workers to 40,000 and became ubiquitous with things like electric screw drivers, walkman players, automotive accessories and on and on. Nat concentrated on importing and the store was closed in 1980 as the cost of a full service Manhattan store could not compete with low cost mail order services and the up and coming Internet. Lewis Polk, Nat's son, brought the company into manufacturing and made a line of G Gauge trains that is now sold all over the world. Scott Polk, Nat's grandson has now joined the firm and is taking over sales and managing the computerization of the company. Maryann Polk, Lewis' wife is the controller and general manager of operations, so it's a true family business.
Polk's became a sales rep for REA for a garden scale train line and when this company opened their own distribution company in America Polk's decided to make American prototype trains of the standard gauge era of post 1900 trains. The other company professed to only make Narrow Gauge trains and an opportunity was seen and taken to bring this era train to the American marketplace. The first track was delivered in 1987 and full production began in 1988.
The train business and R/C airplane manufacturing continues at Polk's and their other trade name Aristo-Craft as a vigorous maker of hobby products. Gil Rose is the technical director and has been with Nat and Irwin since 1935 and Mr. Song and JK Kim are the engineers who design their products in house. Manufacturing has moved to China, where a J.P. Morgan holding makes most of the product, but design remains at their headquarters in Irvington, N.J.