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Carson City entrepreneur fills a tiny niche with tiny vehicles

Rob Sabo

Carson City resident Jeff Halpern began

collecting die-cast police cars while working

at a hobby shop in

Burbank, Calif. Soon

he had a personal

collection of more

than 1,200 model

cars, and he started a

Web site to showcase

his collection.

It didn’t take

Halpern, 35, long to

figure out he could

make money from his

extensive catalogue of

cop cars. Founded in

2000, policecarmodels.

com sells die-cast

models of law

enforcement vehicles

from nearly every

state in the United

States and most major cities as well.

Halpern moved to Carson City in August

in order to get the business out of his fourbedroom

house in Los Angeles, which he says

was overrun for more than seven years by

cardboard,”popcorn” packing and tape. He

bought an affordable house in Carson City

and works out of a 1,400-square-foot warehouse

at 5801 Sheep Drive.

In 2006 Halpern changed his Web hosting

to a Yahoo-based shopping cart system,

which boosted sales by 40 percent. He previously

filled orders by phone. Today, 99 percent

of his orders come from the Internet.

“It’s secure and easier for them to order,”

he says.

Halpern orders fully decorated model

cars from China, as well as blank stock

because some collectors prefer to add paint,

decals and light bars themselves. He

acknowledges he’s limiting sales by not

stocking other types of model cars, but says if

he expanded his product line he would butt

heads with much stiffer competition and

investment capital for expansion is scarce.

“Police cars are the smallest, tiniest niche

of the die-cast industry,” he says,”but I have a

pretty good following of regular and new

customers.”

Cars typically range in price from $10 to

$30. Halpern says the economic downturn

hasn’t really affected his business.

“The economy sucks, but cop car guys

don’t seem to mind,” he says.”A lot of cops

are customers, and they aren’t losing their

jobs anytime soon.”


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