OPINION: Hobby Shops

Last night I was out shopping in a mall in Folsom and noticed something odd about the local Hobby Town. The lights were out and the store was empty. I was reminded of an old Queen song about “Another one bites the dust”.

While it wasn’t a model railroader’s store it carried thing like Plastruct, Evergreen, Vallejo and Model Masters paints. I could get the essentials for modeling. Now I need to get a Plan B. The options are limited to driving for thirty minutes to Roseville to the local Hobby shop. Their stock is a bit sketchy in some areas. The other option is the web. I hate paying eight bucks shipping to get a few packages of styrene.

I guess that I am going to see what most hobbyist live with these days. It is hardship after shopping at the Train Shop in Santa Clara for forty years.

It is a sad state of affairs!



17 thoughts on “OPINION: Hobby Shops

  1. It is indeed a sad state of affairs! I have a 1980 copy of MR and there were 13 pages of hobby shops listed in the back. The latest issues have less than 2. I’ve been getting killed by shipping costs also.

    Bill Yancey

  2. Gene

    The one in Lexington folded up as well, but it turned out that they moved to a more reasonable rent area. They were not permitted to put a sign in the window saying they moved and the mall owners were nicked that HT shifted out of their high rent district.

    They might still be in the area.

    Ray & Renee Grosser

    1145 Linn Road

    Eubank KY 42567-9579

    (606) 379-6590

    “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” General William Booth

  3. Gene, love your P:48 blog — and I couldn’t agree more about hobby shops.
    Some of the closings don’t even make sense! My sister manages a rather profitable store but they are being closed down by their corporate, while store locations hemorrhaging money remain open. Some people blame online retail, but, as you point out, that’s not necessarily a better or cheaper option!
    Perhaps we’ll see a move to more _concierge_ service, or perhaps something along a co-op model: model railroaders used to get together to purchase rail, plaster, spikes and whatnot at bulk rates — and that might possibly work with the styrene structural shapes?
    I lament the passing of _Bruce’s_ in Sacramento (years ago!), am glad that _Just Trains_ in Concord is still open, and wish there were more speciality modeling shops.


  4. I model 2 rail O scale. the closest shop with inventory is 250 miles away (Caboose Stop Hobbies). Carol and Merlin are not kids. I just bought some detail parts from Scale City Designs. It took 7 days to process the order and 8 days for the USPS to get it western Iowa via Ebay. I use ScaleCoat paint. I ordered bottles that cost as much to ship as the paint cost.

  5. Gene,
    I’ve been in a similar boat for a few years now. My solution was to slowly build up a supply of styrene shapes that I use most commonly. Then, once I filled those out, I started to build up everything else. The plan is to eventually have 1 package on hand at all times. As I’m getting back into painting, I’m thinking a similar approach might be useful, but only keep on hand the paints I use. As for sheet styrene, I found a local plastic supplier that sells 4×8 and 4×4 sheets from .010 up to 1/8″. A lot cheaper and bigger than the 11×14 packages.

    Changing my mindset of having to double check supplies before I start a new project has been hard, but I think its actually helped me be more focused in my modeling.

  6. A few thoughts / work-arounds for your Plan B If you are in an NMRA Division or train club perhaps several of you could consolidate to a single order; get discounts and no shipping at area train shows; if you have a local sign shop it can probably order 8’x4′ sheets of styrene, cut up what you need and give away or sell the remainder. The sign sign might even give you scraps for free.
    Jack Dziadul
    Sanford, NC

    • Jack
      The true value of the recently closed hobby store was proximity (10 minutes) so if I run out of something I could run down and buy it so there was no downtime.
      I have a couple online sources that sell Evergreen and Plastruct at discount. I can also buy acrylic paints at the same place. Then there is Amazon Prime.

  7. Bill Yancey and I are 25 minutes apart and have been plagued by the whole shipping costs thing. I have supported a really small hobby shop which has tried to grow roots. My solution has to become a dealer, you spend a bunch to get a minimum stock and in return you get dealer pricing from that point on. The reduced price helps some with that shipping charge. I feel Gene’s pain, I went to college just down the street from the Train Shop and that is what set my standard for what a model railroad supply point should look like. Today, those shops are few and have become pilgrimages for planning stops on vacations where your wife shakes her head and ends the visit with the phrase “How much of our vacation money did you spend?” Honest, I save up!

  8. Gene:

    Try RC Country Hobbies.


    They are open till 7:00 pm during the week and have an excellent inventory of styrene shapes and a wide variety of paints. Take 50 to 65th street exit, then left on Folsom and you are basically there.

    John Gibson
    Rocklin, CA

  9. The Train shop is looking a little thin these days. Still has an excellent collection of books but much of the rest looks a touch thinner on the shelves than the old days. No 20% discount either, everything seems to be full price now.

    I gave up on physical model railroading about 16 years ago… strictly V-Scale — simulator software — now. Can’t beat the prices or the square footage. The railroads are still the same, you have all the same tasks but are using different tools.

  10. I feel your pain I needed some plastruct stock and had to order online I live in a city with 300k population, 2 hobby shops besides a Hobby Town. Unless I wanted drone parts I was out of luck. The Hobby Town you spoke of I used to sell to when I was on the wholesale end of things about a decade ago. In 2008-2009 I watched shops all over the country close some from the economy some trying to do business like they did years ago expecting different results. The truth of the matter is most hobby shop owners are not business minded, they are hobbyists that rented space had some luck and eventually, it runs out. Have you ever been to Fast-Track Hobbies in the Stanford area west of I-80? My impression they had a decent stock of a lot of things. I am also an electronic hobbyist and no way I find anything locally or even 300 miles away in the way of parts. Online I have to buy in bulk in numbers of a high quantity that I will never use so I pool up with some buddies and order online so we save on the shipping and split up the quantity. When I belonged to an RC Airplane club we bought our fuel that way as well, being hazardous material we saved a lot. Good luck on finding a plan B.

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