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Another great hobby shop closing its doors!

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  • Member since
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Another great hobby shop closing its doors!
Posted by nealknows on Monday, June 15, 2020 11:26 AM

I received an email from one of the owners of Willis Hobbies, Mineola, NY. They're retiring, have sold the building and trying to sell the business. I know both owners and I'm happy and sad. Happy that retiring is the next phase of their lives, but sad to see another great hobby shop closing. Closing should be the end of summer.

At their present location, the train and die cast departments are on the lower level, and the R/C car and plane department are upstairs. 

I remember when I was a kid in the 70's I used to bicycle to them when the store was close to the Mineola train station. Took me an hour to get there, but I was always enamored with the store. 

I wish both Steve and Ken the best in their retirement!

Neal

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, June 15, 2020 11:31 AM

Always unfortunate to lose another shop but at least it's closing due to retirement, rather than economic reasons.  Most of those closing that I've observed during the past 5 - 10 years have been single shops with ower retiring.  I lived in NY (Rochester and later Syracuse) for a number of years but never heard of this particular shop.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, June 15, 2020 12:18 PM

That was another hobby shop that I have heard of, but never visited.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by chutton01 on Monday, June 15, 2020 1:38 PM

Well this is somewhat distressing news (for me), I would normally stop by Willis every other month (or more) in normal times, although the past three months have not been normal times around these parts (Long Island).  I don't think the store was allowed to be open in April/May as it would be considered non-essential. I did notice some supply shortages starting last year (well before the pandemic hit) in things like brass rod/tube and Tamiya paints among other items, but I just figured these were flukes. I brought many a kit, styrene strip/sheet, paint, track, decals and so on from Wilis over the decades, hopefully they will be able to reopen the store for business before they close for their final time (will they have been stripped bare by then?)  I don't know how much slack Trainland would pick up, or Nassau Hobby either. Willis gets high marks in Yelp and other review sites, so the brand has some value, and there is lots (and lots) of vacant commerical real estate on Long Island (CBRE and their ilk signs are pretty much everywhere you look), problem is how realistic the rents will be set. The Willis Hobby website seems not to have been updated since last Christmas; maybe they will post a farewell message at some point.

Among many things in my memory of Willis, in the late 1990s (till about mid-00s) toward the back was a low shelf with loads of magazines. Of course eventually the second tier (as they were called then) model railroad magazines faded, and the remaining titles were moved to the back corner - not sure if that symbolizes anything...

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Posted by owen w in california on Monday, June 22, 2020 7:49 PM

This is a bummer. I purchased my first train set at Willis Hobbies in the early 70's when I started N scale model railroading with my Dad. During those years, we didn't have a clue what we were doing, but Al (I believe the current owners' Dad) was always patient and helpful.   Back in 2009 at the NMRA National Convention in Anaheim, I saw a guy a few years younger than me who looked familier, but I couldn't place him. I introduced myself and learned it was one of Al's sons (Steve ?); I guess I'd seen him at the shop during the years I lived on LI. 

I live in California now, but whenever I get to Long Island, I try to visit. Too bad. 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, June 22, 2020 8:13 PM

I'm surprised that there are any Local Hobby Shops left to close. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but nor far from the truth.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, June 22, 2020 10:33 PM

richhotrain
I'm surprised that there are any Local Hobby Shops left to close.

How are the local hobby shops doing during the re-opening phases? Are most of them up to full operating hours? Social distancing was never a problem in most hobby shops I have been to.

I have not been to a hobby shop in four months!

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 4:54 AM

SeeYou190
 
richhotrain
I'm surprised that there are any Local Hobby Shops left to close. 

How are the local hobby shops doing during the re-opening phases? Are most of them up to full operating hours? Social distancing was never a problem in most hobby shops I have been to.

I have not been to a hobby shop in four months! 

What few local hobby shops remain in the Chicago area, they were all closed until recently during the height of the pandemic in Illinois. During the period of closure, they only provided on line ordering and shipping and, in some cases, curbside pickup.

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Posted by chutton01 on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 8:34 AM

SeeYou190
How are the local hobby shops doing during the re-opening phases? Are most of them up to full operating hours? Social distancing was never a problem in most hobby shops I have been to.


Ironically Willis Hobbies reopened several weeks ago...I guess for the final push. 
I was there over the weekend, and it was a bit depressing as could be expected. The whole RC department, which took up the second floor, crammed against the north wall of the first floor...well, crammed may not be the word for it - there was empty floor space and empty display units (some for sale themsleves), they said someone brought the entire die-cast vehicle lot (it used to be a nice selection, I brought a few M2 diecast myself over the years), the Evergreen & K&S selections were getting thin (of course I reduced their stock further), no magazines (well, there was the Walthers flyers) and there were certainly gaps in the paint and scenery and kit sections.  The place was orderly, but the temporary plexiglass shields in front of the register (common in many reopened stores) just sort of added to the general 'look'.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of stock left, so if you are in the area you can stop by as I'm sure they want to clear out the stock before the end.
Employees didn't say what the future holds, I don't blame them, maybe they don't know themselves.
Willis was at it's current site for about 22 years, according to their website history page. Since  they moved to there current location from just across the street, where they had been for a decade or so, that wasn't a drastic change.  But I do remember before the turn of the century stopping by the then new larger store and being quite impressed.  And now here we are - was the first 'Matrix' movie correct and 1999 or so was indeed the peak of our civilization?

I always smelled what was (to me) a slight ordor like a burnt oil smell in the first floor, never did ask what it was, Oh well.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 9:58 AM

chutton01
And now here we are - was the first 'Matrix' movie correct and 1999 or so was indeed the peak of our civilization?

Could be true.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 10:50 AM

riogrande5761

 

 
chutton01
And now here we are - was the first 'Matrix' movie correct and 1999 or so was indeed the peak of our civilization?

 

Could be true.

 

No, common rules are adapt or die. Adapt early and you will have more time to adapt to the new world. I expect all model railroad shops to be gone from the bay area, maybe they are and have not advertized such. The virus has sped up the natural selection in retail by between 5 to 10 years, that is alot. Maybe someone should start a list of model train stores still open, even MB Kliens has no retail store anymore.

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Posted by Attuvian on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 8:25 PM

So grateful to have two good ones here in Portland dedicated solely to trains.  Not often do I find I'm the only customer in either of the stores.  Often there's a healthy fistful of them.  Nothing like convenience.  And if you can wait on an item, you can at least get it without the shippng cost.

Wonder how they've tweaked their business models to stay afloat - and remain as local competitors.

John

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 9:23 PM

Most that I've been observing aren't in the adapt or die situation.  Mostly shops close because they are single owner and that owner ages out.

If those two shops in Portland are single owner, chances are the same thing will happen.  It's just a matter of time.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 9:51 PM

SeeYou190
Social distancing was never a problem in most hobby shops I have been to.

Kevin, If C19 was a issue any time between the  50- mid 90s social distancing would be needed at some hobby shops on Saturday morning. Back then you had two choices shop at a LHS or by mail order. Being at a LHS Saturday mornings in most areas was a must since many shop owners would display the new stock Saturday morning since Friday was payday for the majority of the modelers especially the blue collar workers..

One shop I went to would have the newest locomotives on display in a displace case or perhaps if there was one new locomotive it might be on a test track or running loops on the shops display layout.. The demo locomotive would be sold used at a later date or more then likely the owner kept it in his collection.

I started shopping on line IIRC in 2003.

Larry

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Posted by Dorassoc1 on Thursday, June 25, 2020 7:56 PM

Too bad about Willis Hobby.  Although I lived on Long Island for many years my purchaes there were not enough to keep the store going.  I bet a lot of other modelers could say the same.  I don't think it's any one thing killing the retail local hobby shop. The clientele in my local shop are all contemporaries of mine (I've been in the hobby since the middle of the last century) and the consensus is that it is a rich, old man's hobby - except in December. The shop I frequent here in New Jersey is on its final approach to oblivion. Its marketing plan was last updated in 1970 - before the internet and before mail-order really took hold.  The store is cluttered and there's probably only one employee who knows the location of all those tiny parts you really need.  I'm going to miss them when they're gone.  Who else is going to install the replacement decoder? It's cost-effective to purchase big-ticket items on line, and we think we're geting a bargain - until we get to the shipping charges.  It's the small accessories that I need that guy in the next town for. But, on the other hand, what is this local guy doing to aggressively market his business on-line?  He's selling a 'commodity item' meaning the price can be shopped around.  He should be going after the service aspect, instead of standing there like a deer caught in the headlights.  I think i know his thinking:  too late to change, I'm a year or two from retirement, the customers need me. (Well, the customers that need you, need you, but how many of them are left?

Years ago there was a hobby shop not far from where I now live that may have had what I wanted if I wanted to risk lung cancer.  It was as though the store was hermetically sealed.  He had his old cronies, all contributing to the air quality - until he went out of business. I think of the shops that were old reliables - large, well stocked - from my youth in New York City and one in downtown Brooklyn and two close to me in New Jersey (Neal, south of Rt 80), and MB Klein (retail) in Maryland - all gone.  These were all single owner shops, but there seems to be no longer a market for someone buying a hobby shop.  Raise your hand if you think owning a neighborhood model railroad shop would be a viable business.   I'm talking 'business'.  You can't run a money making business as a hobby.

Thanks for reading this

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Posted by Bayway Terminal on Thursday, July 9, 2020 8:58 PM

The few independent train shops still in business here in NJ remain closed , if you call and pay ahead and they bring out your order, simlar to odering take out food, and you have to ware a mask. Bayway Terminal 

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Thursday, July 9, 2020 10:04 PM

Sad to hear....A victim of the times...Sigh

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, July 10, 2020 10:32 AM

Dorassoc1

Too bad about Willis Hobby.  Although I lived on Long Island for many years my purchaes there were not enough to keep the store going.  I bet a lot of other modelers could say the same.  I don't think it's any one thing killing the retail local hobby shop. The clientele in my local shop are all contemporaries of mine (I've been in the hobby since the middle of the last century) and the consensus is that it is a rich, old man's hobby - except in December. The shop I frequent here in New Jersey is on its final approach to oblivion. Its marketing plan was last updated in 1970 - before the internet and before mail-order really took hold.  The store is cluttered and there's probably only one employee who knows the location of all those tiny parts you really need.  I'm going to miss them when they're gone.  Who else is going to install the replacement decoder? It's cost-effective to purchase big-ticket items on line, and we think we're geting a bargain - until we get to the shipping charges.  It's the small accessories that I need that guy in the next town for. But, on the other hand, what is this local guy doing to aggressively market his business on-line?  He's selling a 'commodity item' meaning the price can be shopped around.  He should be going after the service aspect, instead of standing there like a deer caught in the headlights.  I think i know his thinking:  too late to change, I'm a year or two from retirement, the customers need me. (Well, the customers that need you, need you, but how many of them are left?

Years ago there was a hobby shop not far from where I now live that may have had what I wanted if I wanted to risk lung cancer.  It was as though the store was hermetically sealed.  He had his old cronies, all contributing to the air quality - until he went out of business. I think of the shops that were old reliables - large, well stocked - from my youth in New York City and one in downtown Brooklyn and two close to me in New Jersey (Neal, south of Rt 80), and MB Klein (retail) in Maryland - all gone.  These were all single owner shops, but there seems to be no longer a market for someone buying a hobby shop.  Raise your hand if you think owning a neighborhood model railroad shop would be a viable business.   I'm talking 'business'.  You can't run a money making business as a hobby.

Thanks for reading this

 

M.B. Kline is one of the power houses of online sales, look up modeltrainstuff.

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, July 10, 2020 8:26 PM

 Yeah, MB Klein is still in business, they just moved out of downtown Baltimore out to Cockeysville, out opast the fairgrounds at Timonium. They were an early adopter of internet sales and they are one of few internet retailers even this far down the road that have an genuinely accurate real time inventory system. Even powerhouses like Amazon don't do it as well at they do.

 However they did it, whoever convinced them to get online way back in the early days, was a genius - other shops keep closing up, but MB Klein soldiers on, bigger than ever.

                                    --Randy

 


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Posted by maxman on Friday, July 10, 2020 9:07 PM

rrinker
 However they did it, whoever convinced them to get online way back in the early days, was a genius - other shops keep closing up, but MB Klein soldiers on, bigger than ever.

Yes, but when they were in Baltimore you could browse the shelves.

Somewhere along the way in Cockeysville they reduced the amount of items on the shelf and you had to either look up what you wanted on one of their computer terminals or, if you were smart, have written the item numbers before you arrived.  Then you gave these numbers to the sales individual who went into the back and brought the items out.

Then they reduced the size of the store, or rather the customer area.

Now they are mail order only.

I used to enjoy stopping there on the way back from Timonium.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, July 10, 2020 11:17 PM

We lost Victory Models And Trains (formerly Metro Trains) in Fort Myers this week. They never opened up after the shut down was over. Now the store is completely emptied out.

Even the beautiful 40 foot long three scale layout is gone.

This has saddened me deeply. The store was not very old, it was neat as could be and very well stocked.

They carried EVERY line of paint from Scalecoat II to AK-Interactive.

Very sad indeed.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by rrebell on Saturday, July 11, 2020 12:42 AM

Looks like alot of stores are going byebye, not just hobbie stores.

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