Two Kinds of Hobby Shops

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Years of shopping for hobby stuff has taught me a couple of things. One is that you can find useful hobby stuff in non-hobby stores.  This can be the dollar store, the hardware store or even the grocery store.  The other important thing, which was reconfirmed this weekend, is that there are two kinds of hobby shops.

There’s the one that’s brightly lit, with organized shelves and clear product areas. The store has the latest products, the least amount of dust and staff who use price guns to stalk the aisles and tell you what something costs.  They also have some cute toys for the youngest children and a good chunk of things for display.

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The other is like the one I went to. The lighting in insufficient and the windows, if there are any are covered over with displays, shelves or curtains that don’t get washed all that often.  This leads to lifting the products up to get a better look at them.

There are clear signs of organization, it’s just more general. Military models in that corner, cars in that corner, trains over there behind the wall, N on the left, HO on the right.”  You might find things in the wrong place, but that is part of the fun.  You might even find a bargain.  If you can’t find it, you ask and the person can take you right to it, and maybe tell you a story about how long they have had it for, where they got it, or how they sold twenty one snow January day.

In addition to all this, the store might have a whole bunch of stuff that you can’t find anywhere. The store I went to was no exception.  It was a treasure trove of stuff.  They had:

  • a whole pile of Tyco and AFX track for sale, including risers and lap counters.
  • a multi pack of N scale figures from Woodland Scenics (more than 16 sets bundled together for a bulk sale–the plastic on the outer pack had yellowed from years of indirect sunlight–but it was still for sale.
  • every scale of train from O right on down to Z.
  • Apollo, Gemini, space station and space shuttle rocket kits.
  • monster models and dinosaur kits.
  • educational models
  • cool prints of train artwork
  • a large number of slots car scales and kits (analog and digital)
  • a whole pile of tools for crafting your hobbies, including spray booths and choppers
  • RC car parts (though I didn’t see any RC cars)
  • New and vintage magazines (some real vintage ones)
  • used electronic parts for trains, slot cars, power boats and ….

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I could go on listing all the things I saw, but the truth is that I probably missed a whole lot more. I spent more than an hour there just wandering around trying to buy something.  The only problem is that I really just didn’t want to.  There was nothing I could justify spending money on because I have a whole room full of half complete or unopened things to do.  I am in a bit of funk and I don’t know how to get out of it.  I thought wandering the hobby shop would help, but it only made me more confused.  Starting a new hobby or a new project is fun…but seeing all the other incomplete projects makes me sad. (I did consider a race car set, and I was looking for a large scale 1964-67 Mustang Kit…and some train cars……..

I walked away with my money in my pocket….for now.

Lamenting the Lost

I happened to pass this building today, and felt a little melancholy.  Another hobby business packed up and left.  I don’t know what happened really.  Maybe they moved somewhere else, or maybe the idea just didn’t fly.  A lot of hobby related businesses just don’t succeed and whenever they close, I feel a sling twinge (or pang) of sadness.

While out for a walk I came across this
 
I cannot really say I was part of the solution.  I avoided going into the store because I didn’t really want to start another hobby, and this one seemed really tempting.  Lego and robotics….. Had I gone in, my paycheque might have been a memory.  Despite having some advertising on this sight, I am a long way from having it generate any kind of hobby budget.

We live in a great time for hobbyists, but perhaps not such a great time for people running a large hobby business.  I would guess that running a home hobby business (I imagine somebody making flatcar loads at home, or building train layouts, or designing replica buildings) would be possible.  It would require a great website, a great idea, a spare room or two and probably easy access to a post office.  Running a business with a store location would require the same things, but would also mean renting out a store–and I imagine that it would cost a lot of money.  I am impressed by anyone who does it because it must be hard.  Taking that risk must be pretty scary.

I would hope that Lego had a stake in this enterprise, and therefore nobody lost their shirt trying to run this business.  However, a short portrait in the very local newspaper seems to indicate otherwise.  A brief bit of googling hasn’t brought me any answers.  If you know something about it, please post it here; for my curiosity and others.  I would also appreciate any thoughts on how your local hobby stores are doing.

On a side note, at the bookstore, there still seem to be quite a large number of magazines about hobbies still being published.  Flipping through some of them, I can see that they are making an effort to go digital, but still seem to be publishing.  Feel free to comment on this as well.