Like orange juice stands in California, the hobby shop has disappeared from the local scene in most cities and towns. Both were fun to stop by and enjoy. Now the hobby shop is only a memory to reflect upon when you run out of something critical to a project.
So now I go online and order the few parts I need and get to pay shipping and wait a week or less. When I consider the $8.00 shipping charge for $18.00 of parts, I get a sharp pain in my wallet. So how did we get here?
There are a lot of reasons why we no longer have a local hobby shop (LHS). I don’t intend to plow this field. Many folks have waxed at great length on this topic. I am sure you have your opinion like me.
The reality is that the hobby today is not the hobby of forty years ago. An aging population hasn’t help matters either. My theory is that internet retailing killed the LHS. The local needed full margins to pay for the brick and mortar establishment. Changes in retailing channels has affected nearly everything in our lives. Think about the effect of a new Walmart-type big box store opens in a town. Within a few years, all of the local shops are gone. While the big box store reduced the cost of a lot of things, it did it at a cost to the community. The large internet retailer had a similar effect on the hobby. The lure of lower prices for hobby items and a large selection brought a lot of customers who used to buy at the LHS. Those same discounted big ticket items purchased through the internet were the bread and butter of the LHS. So this left the LHS only the bits and pieces to pay the rent with. It just didn’t work out for the local guy or gal. Now we get to pay through the nose for the little things when the shipping costs are factored in.
I lived in Silicon Valley for many years and enjoyed the fact that the Train Shop in Santa Clara to take care of my diverse needs. The store discounted merchandise and managed to keep their customers buying local. The store is still going strong under the ownership of Dennis Cole. It is a success story.
Over the years, I managed to do a great of traveling in my profession and was able to sample the LHS all over the US and in England and the Continent. I loved the English shops with all of their wonderful bit and pieces liked milled structural shapes and tools. The English railroads had their own charm and could be modeled to a high degree of fidelity with material you purchased at the LHS.
For some reason, the Sacramento area is devoid of a railroad hobby shop. I guess that it says something about the market for trains in the state’s capital. It is the same city that has built a world class railroad museum. Go figure!