Vanishing hobby stores

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jimn

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The Marketplace Morning Report (NPR) had a story on vanishing hobby stores today (May 3rd) concentrating on model rocketry. It is the second story:

 

neil_w

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David Brancaccio was at the last Radical Rocketeers launch I attended (pre-pandemic), launching rockets and taking some nice video. So I guess he has a personal stake in the story. :)
 

CalebJ

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David Brancaccio was at the last Radical Rocketeers launch I attended (pre-pandemic), launching rockets and taking some nice video. So I guess he has a personal stake in the story. :)
He's been in one of the Facebook rocketry groups (Model Rocketry Fanatics) for quite a while.
 

boomtube-mk2

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Hobby shops, bicycle shops, hiking/backpacking/mountaineering shops, book stores, motorcycle shops both sales and pro-shops, the list goes on and on with regards to "Retail that is disappearing".

Much of this IMO has to do with changing demographics. Us old farts are dying off and the younger generations are not participating in the same activities as we did when we were their age.

Motorcycle sales, with a few notable exceptions, have been in decline since the late '90's high point.
Bicycle sales are even worse and when you go to a mall and there are six stores selling the same athletic shoes and apparel along with half a dozen stores selling discount women's fashion shoes . . . and no bookstore; you know the writing is on the wall.
 

mjennings

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It's the story titled "Figuring out the structure of infrastructure". Nice little piece.
 

shockie

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Amazon. Who needs brick and mortar stores anymore.

A local HS closed during the pandemic. It was the only local HS for 50 miles other than HL.
 

Peartree

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I was just reading a list today of all the local train stores that have closed in the last few years.
 

rharshberger

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It's hard to lump HL into the same group as the old local hobby stores. You may be able to get some stuff there but nothing like a family owned store like Als.
HL is not IMO a LHS, its a craft supply store that happens to sell a few hobby related items. True Local Hobby Shops/Stores have products like model kits, trains, rc kits car/air/heli/truck, model railroading, building supplies, scenery for model kits and usually a very small but very knowledgeable staff who actually can give decent/valuable advice. HL employees might know where to find an item in the store but most cant tell you a thing about model rockets model kits or other specialized hobbies.
 

Sandy H.

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The Hobby Stop in Rockhill, SC was an amazing place. I used to live about a half hour from there and would stop in an buy something about once every 6 months. They were an amazing RC Car shop which also had railroad, rocketry, airplane stuff etc., but no question, they were known for the RC Car stuff. I could never afford RC Cars, but would buy repair parts for my outdated junk and occasionally even run on their tracks (note there were 3 by the time they closed) on non-race times.

Here's the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Hobby-Store/Hobby-Stop-160811150611196/

To make this a long and drawn out post (not intentionally, but I guess its what I do), I had purchased some old, used up Bolink 2wd Asphalt 1/10 cars from a co-worker. I messed around with them in the cul-de-sac to figure out what did and what didn't work, made a list and headed to the Hobby Stop. I bought new batteries (Ni-cad, so probably 1996 time frame) and a few of the missing parts. I brought the cars with me so I could make sure things fit. After spending, maybe $50-100 on the various stuff I got, I started to leave. The guy at the counter said "Wait, you're not going to run those cars tonight?" and I said I might once I got home and he said to go on out to the oval track and make some laps. He handed me 2 'house' batteries that were charged and helped me replace the tires that were dry rotted foam. He remembered the guy who used to race them there from the body paint. I asked how much was it to run 15 minutes (came from a slot-car background where you rented the lanes) and he looked at me kind of funny and said you can run on the track whenever there's not a race.

I ran for a while and spent more time spinning and crashing into the outside wall on the high-banked oval than one should be proud of. He jokingly said that I should probably practice at home a bit more, but I should really come by and run the track for a while and then come to a race, as they added a class called 'classics' (or something like that) which used older technology, bodies etc., so people didn't have to always upgrade to the best thing on the market that day. I attended an event, but after seeing how intense the racing was, I bailed out completely. I wasn't going to crash people with my bad driving. . . they were amazing.

Anyway, when COVID hit, I (like everyone else) got back into some retired hobbies. One was backyard 4wd RC trucks I bought from Horizon Hobby after I moved. The NiMH batteries were junk and so I decided to go to Hobby Stop to buy some Lipo's and maybe bring the trucks to their real offroad track. I checked to see if they were open due to COVID and found that they had closed the year before. Why? People like me that bought online instead of in the shop.

Going back to the Facebook link: First, look at the background picture and see what a cool place it was. Second, know they modified the off-road track every few years adding different challenges/ensuring it was a great venue. They added a twisty/turney concrete course in the tri-oval track for flat track 4wd road-course racing. The big tri-oval was practically big enough to run racing karts, not just RC cars and the banking was crazy. Lastly, if you scroll through the posts skipping the first 4-6, you get to their closing statement and comments. Reading the comments they basically say that internet sales shut them down and it will do the same for a lot of other shops. They were in the business, ran a great store, held awesome events and that is their opinion, so it counts more than mine, for sure. Having said that, I think its practically common sense that the big box stores killed the brick and mortar shops (hardware, electronics etc.) and Amazon is doing the same to many big box stores (excepting items that aren't practical to ship).

Support your on-site vendor if you fly at a club. If not, they'll go away too. This shop was amazing and had awesome tracks you could run on. Those tracks are now gone forever. I wish I understood this earlier. I would have been fine with donating some cash for 100% profit every now and then to have the option of running those tracks from time to time. Instead, I bought my trucks online, saving a few bucks (probably $20-60 out of $500) and this cool place is now gone.

Sandy.

[edit: DoH!!! I completely forgot the thing that relates this to rocketry. . . When I was at the shop one time, looking at stuff, I saw a flier with the little cut paper tabs at the bottom saying something like: "Would you like to fly with a rocketry club, join us at ROCC, flying from Willaims Farm in Midland" and I tore the tag off. When I got home, I made the phone call and then climbed into the attic for the ragged box that I had to get out of my room where I grew up that said 'rocket junk.' That is my BAR story, started at an amazing RC Car LHS.]
 
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Sooner Boomer

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The local Hobby Town carries less rocketry stuff than the Hobby Lobby across the street from it. His choice - I guess he makes more money selling RC planes and puzzles. But I'm interested in rocketry, so I rarely go in.

One thing I've seen the decline of, and greatly miss, are mom and pop used book stores. For used books, it's either Half-Priced Books a town away, or the internet.
 

Arpak

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Much of this IMO has to do with changing demographics. Us old farts are dying off and the younger generations are not participating in the same activities as we did when we were their age.
I think the rise of e-commerce is more to blame, I say that as a non-old fart participating in the hobby ;)

I do miss radioshack, the one before it became a glorified sprint accessory store.
 

KC3KNM

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I think the rise of e-commerce is more to blame, I say that as a non-old fart participating in the hobby ;)

I do miss radioshack, the one before it became a glorified sprint accessory store.
Radioshack trips with my Dad were the best. I used to obsess over that component bin they had every time I went there. Micro Center is a very good replacement, though.
 

ksaves2

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Great pickup. At the end of the story David Brancaccio said he launches rockets and launched an Aquarius on a D21 and he got it back.
I wonder what's in Al's hobby shop building now? Closed in 2014. I used to take the Chicago Northwestern from Wheaton and the train station in Elmhurst was right across the street. Was easy for me to walk to both train stations.
Kurt Savegnago
 

Blast it Tom!

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We are very fortunate to have a well-stocked hobby store in my area - everything from balsa to servos, plastic scale models, trains, die cast, slot cars, scientific toys and quality toys for kids, all sorts of drones and RC cars, planes, tools finishing, weathering... oh, and ROCKETS! ;)

I shop there and won't get anything I can get there on line, and make suggestions as well. It's like the guy says... his suppliers are his competitors! But there are so, so many times when I want to hold in in my hands, turn it over, etc. before I buy it. And the guys and gals behind the counters know what they are talking about. They can help you with selection, they know how to make repairs... places like this are invaluable and they have to pay for retail space and hold the cost of inventory and make it look appealing, keep it in order, etc - very different from an warehouse operation. And people being people, they suffer the losses when something gets broken, or parts get lost when someone opens a bag or box, or when something just grows legs and walks out of the shop... So yeah, he's got my support, God bless him!
 
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Exactimator

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Radioshack trips with my Dad were the best. I used to obsess over that component bin they had every time I went there. Micro Center is a very good replacement, though.
I stumbled across this video the other week. He talks about electronics stores (including Radioshack) that have come and gone and a few reasons why. It's a bit nostalgic.
 

Funkworks

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Shackwave (RadioShack's Shockwave knock-off, in a 1980s Shockwave voice):
"No Apologies. The time had come to destroy bricks and mortar and move everything to Cybertron".
reduced-rsgalact-b1.jpg

"Long live Cybertron"
 
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James Duffy

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Mismanagement and indifference is a far greater threat to local hobby shops than ecommerce. A couple of weeks ago I needed paint to finish up a project. Rather than order online, I decided to favor the local guys with my money.

The paint racks were half full. Most critically, they were out of white spray paint. White spray paint! An inquiry at the front counter about the possibility of additional stock in the back room was met with a suggestion that they could "special order" it for me. That's right, a special order on, of all things, white spray paint.

That's not competition from online sources. That's poor business execution.

I'm done with that noise. I'll just order online and plan ahead.
 

Blast it Tom!

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Mismanagement and indifference is a far greater threat to local hobby shops than ecommerce. A couple of weeks ago I needed paint to finish up a project. Rather than order online, I decided to favor the local guys with my money.

The paint racks were half full. Most critically, they were out of white spray paint. White spray paint! An inquiry at the front counter about the possibility of additional stock in the back room was met with a suggestion that they could "special order" it for me. That's right, a special order on, of all things, white spray paint.

That's not competition from online sources. That's poor business execution.

I'm done with that noise. I'll just order online and plan ahead.
Very true! Maybe that's why mine is still in business. Generously stocked and readily searchable, and helpful staff, many of whom are enthusiasts themselves! He has so many things I'd like to mess with, I told him that by the time I'm a few months into retirement, he'll be wanting to have my picture on the wall!
 

Antares JS

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If anyone is ever in the Fond du Lac, WI area, toss a little business the way of Focus, Inc on main street. They kept me supplied with Estes and other hobby stuff all through my high school years, and a good part of their store is a treasure trove of old plastic model kits if you're into that. They also had a couple of Aerotech items one day and I bought my first F motor from them. The owner is one of the nicest old men I have ever met. Google is indicating that they are still there, thankfully.

Unfortunately Hobby Lobby is the only Estes retailer in my area, as far as I can tell. At least I can buy E12's without incurring hazmat shipping.
 

boomtube-mk2

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I think the rise of e-commerce is more to blame, I say that as a non-old fart participating in the hobby ;)

I do miss radioshack, the one before it became a glorified sprint accessory store.
Many of the hobby shops from my youth were gone long before e-commerce was anything but a science fiction plot point and e-commerce doesn't explain the loss of all the other shops I mentioned with the possibility of book stores.

Nobody should be buying high-end bicycles or backpacking/mountaineering gear via e-commerce, you'll never get it to fit correctly.
Then there's the nose-dive in motorcycle sales. Gen-X and the Millennials are not riding motorcycles as much as the WWII and the Baby Boomer generations did.
 

DigBaddy

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If anyone is ever in the Fond du Lac, WI area, toss a little business the way of Focus, Inc on main street. They kept me supplied with Estes and other hobby stuff all through my high school years, and a good part of their store is a treasure trove of old plastic model kits if you're into that. They also had a couple of Aerotech items one day and I bought my first F motor from them. The owner is one of the nicest old men I have ever met. Google is indicating that they are still there, thankfully.

Unfortunately Hobby Lobby is the only Estes retailer in my area, as far as I can tell. At least I can buy E12's without incurring hazmat shipping.
Thanks for the heads up. Pass through there occasionally and will try to stop in if I can.
 

tab28682

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The Fort Worth area is very fortunate to have two great hobby shops. They are primarily RC oriented, but one, Roys Hobby Shop in Hurst, has a long wall of Estes, plus parts and a small smattering of other kits. No mid or high power, though.

JTs Hobby is a small but great shop on the west side of Fort Worth. Very little rocketry, but a lot of RC stuff there.

Hobby shops in the Dallas area are not too great, but the old long standing Wild Bills Hobby Shop in Irving, now converted to a a HobbyTown USA has some Estes and some Aerotech and some Quest Q-jets.

We also have a decent HobbyTown in far NE Fort Worth.

Given the state of brick and motor retail in general, and hobby shops in particular, I do not consider that a hobby shop being low on stock is automaticbeing poorly managed. Economic reality is that sales are simply not supporting full stock levels.
 

gtg738w

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Mismanagement and indifference is a far greater threat to local hobby shops than ecommerce. A couple of weeks ago I needed paint to finish up a project. Rather than order online, I decided to favor the local guys with my money.

The paint racks were half full. Most critically, they were out of white spray paint. White spray paint! An inquiry at the front counter about the possibility of additional stock in the back room was met with a suggestion that they could "special order" it for me. That's right, a special order on, of all things, white spray paint.

That's not competition from online sources. That's poor business execution.

I'm done with that noise. I'll just order online and plan ahead.
This is why hobby shops are struggling. Especially after the last year we've had, there might be a good reason why they are out of white paint. It's probably not a "special" order if there is a spot on the shelf for it. It's not there because either they can't actually get it from the distributor with all of the shortages or shipping disruptions or that money (inventory) is better spent somewhere else. Maybe they had to decide to pay the lease this month instead of bringing in a few more cases of paint. Either way, talk to the owner. Good chance they are a hobbyist too and will do whatever they can to help you out. We have a local distributer and can get product the same or next day - if a customer asks for it. Even if it is an order, you might not get it sooner ordering it yourself. And you're paying shipping on one can of paint that way.

Do what you can to help your local shops. Tell them what you want to buy and give them a chance. Encourage club members to do the same, supply won't come without demand.
 

dr wogz

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I am luck t have a great LHS very close to me.

But, for a city as large a Montreal, I've seen all teh prominent ones 'die off'.

A sI spoke to my local one, about what happened to his R/C dirt track, and why soem thigns are hard to come by:

"Blame gaming console" was his reply.

He said he would bring back the dirt track in a hear beat. It apparently brought in 50 70 families ot eh mall. so it was good for business. But, along came gaming consoles and a lot of the 'old time' hobbies all but dried up.

I've seen the few other shops dry up. they mainly had to convert to 'toy shops' as less & less were asking for train sets, for model planes, for plastic models even..
 

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