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Old Mar 23, 2007, 12:10 PM
Veni, Vidi, Feci
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State of the Local Hobby Shop?

Another thread here started to talk about supporting our suppliers and LHS's; clearly if we don't, we'll have trouble even if we're scratch building, 'cause where we gonna buy our CA and basswood?

I've seen a couple stores close up near me, and occasionally hear someone bemoaning the loss of a cherished LHS in other parts of the country. On the other hand, I'm in one of the most depressed areas of the US-- SE Michigan-- home of fewer and fewer automotive jobs… and the closings I've seen were all in a local chain (Rider's), where it looks more like a consolidation of stores than a pull-out. I still have at least ten well stocked LHS's within a 45 minute drive… and one of them just moved into upgraded digs.

So how are things where you are?

And how strong is your loyalty to these shops?

I admit that I buy a lot through mail order… usually because the LHS doesn't stock what I want, and/or their price isn't competitive. I do hate to pay $8.95 shipping for a $4 item, so I try to build up orders. Of course, my usual buys wouldn't support the LHS that much anyway, four bucks here and there and rarely a $500 kit!

And is the LHS doomed by the internet, just as local stables and blacksmiths were doomed by the automobile?

And what will we really lose if they are? What are your thoughts?

Pat M
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 12:23 PM
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We had 2 shops when I first moved here in 2000. One was run by a pair of sisters that had long put off retirement. No one stepped up to buy them and keep the store open. Now it is a junk store you can't even walk through the isles for all the 2nd hand stuff offered.
The 2nd store was run by a very young guy that had a bad location. He never had any real model supply inventory. His main interest was cars and for that he had some inventory. A year later he too closed up.
Now all there is left is the internet. Thank God that hasn't shut down yet.

Don
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 12:34 PM
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Yeeeesh...

I have several (so called) model shops within a 25 mile radius of where i am sitting, just outside LA. The closest two are of the big chain type, who seem to employ the .. shall we say, the less educated.. assistants. One i frequent regularly as they have a reasonable stock of ply, balsa and glues, the other.. yeah, right..
The next nearest is a drive away and is an 'independant', is better stocked and has better staff.. although, thats for aircraft and car bits.. and has very little boat parts.

Others i have visited within the 25 mile rad. are a mixture of the three local shops.. some are good, some are bad.. and some are.. well, i wouldnt visit them again!.

Yes, i order through the net, as the LHS's dont carry what i need, but where-ever possible, i buy from the LHS.. or ask them to order it.

I dont think the LHS is doomed by the net, but to survive, they need to cater for all modellers wether new, seasoned or vastly experienced... and need to get better assistants.. at least not 'spotty young oiks' who think they have enough knowledge to tell you what you need after buying a RTR car!..

I came from GB, where model shops are (now) few and far between, they hadnt used to be like that, there used to be lots of shops that catered for the modeller.. even 'toy' shops carried a basic stock of balsa and ply!.

When i moved here (to central California) the LHS was incredible and stocked virtually everything i needed (Shaun H knows who i mean) and if they didnt have it in stock, would bend over backwards to have it special ordered and delivered within 48 hours.
I base my (now) LHS's on my 'first' experience over here in the US of A of a LHS.. and nothing comes close.. Yes, Shaun H, you can tell them that!.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:04 PM
KC8WPF
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Euclid, Ohio, United States
Joined Sep 2004
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First, I'm currently the president of the CMBC. Secondly, I work part time at a LHS.

There are two hobby shops within 10 miles of my home. One is 5 miles away, and is a mom & pop store, dealing mostly with trains, plastic models & diecast. I go there at least every other month to check in and make sure they have enough fliers about our club and upcoming events. I don't spend too much money there; but their prices are reasonable. They do refer boat questions to me at the store where I work; and our store sometimes refers diecast questions to them. This shop doesn't carry a lot of rc stuff, but does carry quite a bit of plastic models that can be converted to rc.

The LHS that I work at is about 10 miles from home. We expanded the store about a year and half ago. The owner is a model railroader (HO scale); he tries to hire people with actual experience in the different hobbies. Even though I'm a scale boater, I get all of the gas/nitro & sailboat questions - those I can't answer right away I ask the guys in my local club. We have about 10 people working in the shop. Most of them are car guys because we sell a lot of cars & trucks. A local rc airplane club meets at the shop monthly. The rc boat area ia a double sided shelf unit 12 feet long, with rtr boats. The scale boats, plastic & wood, are in another part of the store and utilize about 20 feet of shelf space. I do provide fliers on the local club, SSMA, and SubCommittee at the rc boat rack. The rc boat rack is near the rc car counter where we do repairs. Since rc cars and boats have similar parts requirements, I think the arrangement we have is pretty good. While we don't carry everything that I or my club members need or want, we can special order items; the local sales tax (6.75%) is less than the shipping from most of the e-tailers. I do buy quite a bit of the daily suplies like paint, glue, wood, plastic, etc., from my employer; the employee discount helps some. The last "big ticket" I bought from the shop was a 9 channel radio at Christmas.

There are several other shops within an hour drive or so, but I don't frequent them as much as the two closer to me. Some of the other shops specialize more in trains. Things seem to be pretty good at the shops where I live, each one seems to have their own little niche.

I don't think the LHS is doomed by the internet; maybe the LHS has a slight flesh wound. The e-tailers may have lower prices; but have you tried to get warranty repairs done by them. Some of the LHS will replace the defective part, from shop stock, and send it back to the manufacturer for you. There is a lot to be said for the staff at the LHS; we know the product and what works. You can bring the model in and have a person take a look at it and help you trouble shoot and fix the problem. Customer service from the e-tailers can't provide the "hands-on" tech support the LHS can.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:08 PM
SDJ
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Australia
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In Australia most of the LHS stock mostly ARF's and very little else, the nearest one to me has good staff and are very helpfull and patient, often rounds down purchases to the nearest $10.00 and lets me drool as much as I like.
I think the part of the problem is alot of people want instant gratification, we want it and we want it now!! this is not entirely their fault as most advertising is aimed at so called instant gratification. the old, why wait when you can have it now, only 3 low payments of blah blah blah.
planing and building skills teach patience, appreciation and acountability, there is much greater satisfaction in a job that is built from a kit or scratch built than just pull it out the box, maybe have to put decals on, charge the battery and lets go boating, though there is nothing wrong with this its not for me, (to each their own).
I get alot of satisfaction teaching my children how to plan and build things, be it models or billy carts or camping skills, its great to see the penny drop and then I just get out the way and enjoy seeing them work together, (much better than their usual Dad he's got his foot in my room, sigh) just my 2 cents worth.

an important thing to rember is: Treat a mans opinion like you would treat his dog, if you like it tell him so, but he should not expect you to take it home. just my 2 cents worth.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:19 PM
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Here in western New York, the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area can boast of several well-stocked hobby shops, one of which bills itself as "the largest hobby & craft store in the U.S."

Oh, it's big all right, and does have a wide range of hobby items that will suit one's needs, but I've seen larger shops in Phoenix and San Diego.

Then we have several small "specialist" shops, that cater to the airplane and train people. These little places have a surprising inventory of stuff, and a knowledgable staff to go with it.

We also have a "Hobbytown USA" store, which I believe is part of a national chain.

The great feature of the shops here is that all of them seem to be doing a good business, and there havent been any hobby shop closings in many years.

I'm a scratchbuilder, and as such am not in the market for anything other than tools and materials, but it's good to see that things are available for the average modeler.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:20 PM
SDJ
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I agree

[ There is a lot to be said for the staff at the LHS; we know the product and what works. You can bring the model in and have a person take a look at it and help you trouble shoot and fix the problem. Customer service from the e-tailers can't provide the "hands-on" tech support the LHS can.[/QUOTE]

Amen!! as a beginer I can relate to that
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:28 PM
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Close to me near Detroit is "Nankin Hardware", which is about half local hardware store (a rarity with so many Lowes & Home Depots nearby), and half hobby shop. Don't know if one half props up the other, nor which might do the propping- both seem well stocked and busy.

They have a lot of tools & materials not found in most shops, and a lot of trains, plastic models, and RC planes. Best, they even carry a nice range of RTR and kit RC boats... I'm there frequently!

Personally, I expect that aging boomers will keep the retailers afloat for a long time yet, whether they're online or surrounded by bricks & mortar.

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Old Mar 23, 2007, 01:43 PM
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I was always into model boats, even as a kid, and I would visit every hobby shop I could cycle to in the area back then.

I couldn't afford a lot of the stuff I saw, but I can still remember the atmosphere that the shops exuded.

The store windows would have displays that piqued the imagination, but they were only a prelude to what was inside.

You'd walk in, and there would be model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, display models of cars, tanks, figurines, dioramas, etc. in glass cases, ship models on top of shelves---. Wow!

(sigh) Don't see much of that anymore---.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 02:35 PM
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Too true- I used to go to a favorite "LHS" of mine that fit that description... though mine had the added benefit of being dimly lit and was poorly organized- to me, it was 'adventure', a place to spend time- I bought everything there- even though it was a small shop, they catered to every interest (I still remember some of the Sterling C*C kits on the walls that I didn't consider buying... ) The knowledgeable owner worked the cash register 6 days a week and did the books on the 7th day- hard work for sure-

Now I buy from several LHS' and online- the LHS' in my area are generally 'sterile' by comparison- flourecent lights, ARFs and barcodes. I buy mostly materials and paint from them- the electronics, motors, etc I usually go online or direct to the factory- we still need the LHS and they need to be supported but they aren't the same to me anymore... who knows, perhaps it is just age
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Joined Dec 2002
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The hobby shops around here do all right. I would say we have about 12 in and around Portland. Three are train stores, one is a large mall "toy" store, one Hobbytown USA with some good folk, Three are almost exclusively RC car "plus" stores. Two are well established all around hobby shops, and two are Car/plane plus stores.

I would say that frequent four of the shops regularly, at least enough to be known as"trouble".
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 03:14 PM
Grumpa Tom
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United States, CA, Los Angeles
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There are plenty of hobby shops in Los Angeles County. I suppose there are dozens spread out around Southern California. In my little neck of the woods, (5 minute drive) I have Smith Brothers and Hobby People.

Smith Bros is a really nice hobby shop. But not if you are into r/c boats. They have tons of plastic models, including plastic boat kits so if you want to convert to r/c you hae a choice. But they do not know r/c boats nor really care. They are mostly r/c airplane guys and going along with the market have mostly ARF's. But they do still carry some kits, mostly u-control. They are also very big in the HO trains and have tons of that stuff. However, they have a very nice selection of building materials, tools, wood, etc. I can say though, that they are staffed with some of the most knowledgeable people about model airplanes. Tony Naccarato came here after closing his hobby shop, T&A Hobby Lobby in Burbank. Dick Waddel, Vice President of the San Fernando Giant Scale Squadron also works there.

Two guys who really know model boats/subs are customers there, Steve Neil (U812) and Harry Hollins III (Horrible Harry) so some really good info has been gleaned from both of them.

If I want to spread out to a 1 hour drive, I have more hobby shops than I am probably aware of. Some of them include Ultimate Hobbies, Pegasus Hobbies, Marty's Hobbies, Gizmo's, Robins Hobby, Hobby Zone, Evett's Model Shop, Hobby People Corporate, Hot Rod Hobbies, Hobby Town, etc.

To answer Pat's question, I do not believe LHS's are becoming extinct. I do think the cream is floating to the top and the others will go by the wayside.
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 03:33 PM
Veni, Vidi, Feci
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I'm thinking much can be said about our supply base. We have many good folks who know their stuff and will be around as long as they care to be. We have some who don't know how, or don't care to pursue this niche, and may be "going away".
What really encourages me is all the NEW entries- Model Solutions is just the latest... but every two months I'm amazed at how much new product I'm able to report on just in R/C boats... Tian Jie for one, but also lots of new releases from Billing, Graupner, Deans, etc.- but not much from US sources! Oh well, international trade is good, right?

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Old Mar 23, 2007, 04:15 PM
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I try to do my weekly (for the past 30yrs) visit and purchase to my LHS, it plus a train-only shop are the only two left. The LHS still carries that kid in a candy store atmoshere, planes hanging, kits to ceiling, the area no body know's what is there. The father has passed on, but the son has carried on very well. The prices seem to be more competitive lately, they say a different supplier (may be on-line shops). I also use on-line shops on a regular basis,(north and south of the border) but being in Canada you have to have a sharp pencil, because of the exchange rate, shipping, customs, handing costs, that may occur. Ebay is also a favorite
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Old Mar 23, 2007, 04:17 PM
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Aero-,
Your reminiscences rang a bell with me; back in the late 40's and throughout the 50's, all we had were the mom and pop hobby shops. They were magical places to a youngster with a few dollars in his pocket and an extensive want list. Our lawn mowing and paper routes never seemed to produce enough money to really do any serious 'damage' at these shops, but we prized what we were able to haul home on our bicycles (and later a Cushman motor scooter).
The motor scooter - cost $ 75.00, a 1950 model paid for in 3 monthly payments in 1956 - gave me somewhat wider shopping latitude in the community. Gasoline was around 25 cents a gallon; I might burn 50 cents worth a week, in a busy week.
It's interesting to see some of the items that we purchased back then appear from time to time on eBay, and see the prices that they command today, often in used if not abused condition.
The mom and pop stores are gone from my area, replaced by the chain stores where most things are bubble-wrapped, computer-inventoried, pretty predictable, and yes, my word too, sterile. The people are nice, try to be helpful, a couple are knowledgable, but it just isn't magical any more.
Perhaps that's just a function of our ages now, and the times we live in. But it's a shame that our children and unborn grandchildren will never know that excitement and sense of anticipation that we felt when we eagerly walked into an old-fashioned dimly lit, slightly mysterious hobby shop where anything was possible, or so it seemed.
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