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Demise of the hobby shop (an observation, not an emotional response)

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, May 20, 2019 1:05 PM

 I bought out the brass detail parts of a large train shop back in the late 80's as they were closing. That place was huge and covered all the important scales. Racks of the best stuff and the newest (retirement I think was the reason for the close). Some shops were very well stocked. What alot of you don't seem to take into account is the discounts available for big orders. Even if they show you an invoice, it is ussually devoid of the discount.  I learned this working for HD. One time there was an item on sale and retail was lke $2 but clearance was 99 cents. In our books it listed HD cost as $1, found out true cost was closer to 10 cents. I remember looking into being a dealer for Bachmann once, at that time the first discount (available with $10,000 purchase) was 50%, you could get a bigger one for ordering more.

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Posted by drgwcs on Monday, May 20, 2019 2:15 PM

richhotrain

This is an interesting thread to read through. Either everyone knows why the LHS has all but disappeared or no one knows why the LHS has all but disappeared. I will be quick to concede that I have no idea either. But, I can share my experience.

I have always felt that I entered the hobby back in January 2004 right at the beginning of the end for the LHS. Up here in the Chicago area, back in early 2004 I had three LHS's to choose from, all within a 15 minute drive from my house. All three stores were owned by aging owners in leased store fronts in strip malls. All three were willing to discount purchases, none had an online presence, and all three could order what they didn't have in stock and get it, usually from Walthers within 3 days without charging me for shipping.

All 3 LHS's closed in 2009-2010 as the owners drew nearer to retirement and as the strip mall owners increased rents. Although none of the three had an online presence, neither Amazon nor eBay killed the LHS, at least in my experience. The closures were the result of aging owners and increasing rents and a dwindling customer base.

Back in the 2004-2010 time frame, beyond by three truly local hobby shops were another dozen or so good sized model railroad shops within an hour's drive of my house. Again, they were all in strip malls, leased storefronts and aging owners. They are all gone but two. The two remaining shops are either 30 minutes away or 45 minutes away, no discounts, but an online presence.

 

Rich

 

I guess a lot of our perpective on the local shop depends on proximity. Before I moved to Danville VA three years ago we lived just outside of the Chicago city limits. There were some excellent shops. Only problem was getting to them......Ironicly it took longer sometimes getting to the local shops that when we lived in Indiana and the nearest shop was in Indianapolis 50 miles away. Now I live in Danville VA- there are three shops that are right at 1 1/2hours away all in different directions too. I have enough stuff to keep me busy for a long time though but there is always the thing that you need for a project. Those in further off areas have always needed to rely on other means. Back in the 80's it was mail order. I lived in Oklahoma and one guy who owned a business served as a "fence" for the other guys in the railroad club to hide their mail order purchases from their wives Whistling. Now it has shifted to internet and ebay. I do try to patronize the local shop when I am in the area though.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:27 PM

drgwcs
All 3 LHS's closed in 2009-2010 as the owners drew nearer to retirement and as the strip mall owners increased rents.

drgwcs,  Several of the now closed shop that I have went to the owner retired,became ill or passed on except for two that was closed,one due to ah,well,  hmmm, shall  we say tax problems? and the other through a divorce settlement.

Larry

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Posted by csxns on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:33 PM

BATMAN
What could be easier?

Not to come broken and have to send it back.

Russell

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Posted by csxns on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:40 PM

BATMAN
They E-mail you a lable that you print off and tape to the box,

Two times from MBK's i had to do that took four days to get it four days for MBK to get it and four days for me to enjoy it.

Russell

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Posted by csxns on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:41 PM

BATMAN
you leave the box on the step and it gets picked up.

If i do that the dog trashes the box.

Russell

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Posted by maxman on Monday, May 20, 2019 4:32 PM

dknelson
I can assure you, there are way more LHSs than record stores today.

I believe that there are some "holes" in this opinion

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, May 20, 2019 6:06 PM

drgwcs
I guess a lot of our perpective on the local shop depends on proximity. Before I moved to Danville VA three years ago we lived just outside of the Chicago city limits. There were some excellent shops. Only problem was getting to them......Ironicly it took longer sometimes getting to the local shops that when we lived in Indiana and the nearest shop was in Indianapolis 50 miles away.

.

I am in that situation right now. From my house in North Cape Coral, it is 65 miles to Gulf Coast Model Railroading in Sarasota, and 15 miles to Metro Trains in Fort Myers.

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It takes 1 hour +/- 10 minutes to get to either one of them.

.

There are better restaurants on the trip back from the hobby shop in Sarasota, so I normally go to the one further away.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by Bigjim7 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 8:10 AM
Were lucky in Louisville Ky. We have 2 nice Hobby shops' One the Roundhouse is trains only' they do it all. Huge O scale selection. Plus all other scales. the other is a more modern store Scale Reproduction' they carry all Hobby stuff. Huge RC selection ' Models' Slot Cars' and huge train selection' mostly Ho and N. I live about 40 min away from both. They have great prices and offer 10% off those who belong to clubs. If your in Louisville stop by.
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Posted by robert sylvester on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 8:40 AM

Wink I love my home town hobby shop in West Columbia, SC, although when I try to put the name in my post someone always takes it out, yet I noticed in this most recent discussion many LHS's are listed by name so I will try again.

I have been going to the New Brookland Model RR Hobby Shop for over thirty years. I first noticed the store in an advertisement  in Model RR, and they have been faithful ever since.

This place is packed with model railroad equipment, I mean from Garden Railroads, to Z Scale, and all of the detail stuff to go with it. You name it they have it. I have built 5 large layouts and most every thing on them came from this establishment, and if Joe didn't have it he could order it and it would be there in a few days.

Now I know LHS are slowly fading by the way side but this one is still going strong and his inventory will last forever. Not only is the store jammed packed his warehouse is full to the ceiling.

It's just good planning and he maintains excellent inventory to meets the neeeds of modelers and that what it takes. He also repairs and is very knowlegable when it come to the equipment. It never fails when I go in there people are there looking and buying. He gives discounts too.

You can't open a hobby shop on a whim, planning is the key, and that is what we have in Columbia, SC. Model Railroader and other hobby magazine need to do everything they can to support local hobby shops. There's nothing like going into a shop and actually picking up that box car and looking at, you can't do that on line but you can when you visit a good friend who is willing to help you with your model railroad projects.

Thanks to all of the LHS's.

Robert Sylvester

Newberry-Columbia Line, SC

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:00 AM

Robert, you are indeed fortunate to have such a hobby shop. It seems to me that there are two reasons for its continuing survival and success. One, the ability to maintain a huge inventory and, two, the ability to meet expenses including rent or property tax.

While it is also true that the owner is knowledgeable, willing to give discounts, and able to handle repairs, the financial ability to meet expenses and carry a huge inventory are really the keys to success. Most shops that fail can point to their failure to pay their rent while maintaining a huge inventory.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 10:29 AM

Yes owning the building is key. I worked for a well known company for a few years when much younger (Woolworths) and the whole chain went down because they based their plan on 40 year leases (had always worked for them since inception) but in that last 40 year time line things changed and they closed store after store as leases expired.

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Posted by robert sylvester on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 2:53 PM

Rich: The building has been in the family for decades and the family home is right behind it. The owners father ran a gas station in the building as well as an auto repair shoppe in the building for years, then he turned it over to his son who then opened a hobby shop. The hobby shop has been there since the early 1980's and is still going strong. I am now in the process of building a new building, (18X 24 feet). I have decided to keep things simple and go with Bachman's E-Z track for the whole layout, now that they have  36'' and 38'' radii curves and number 6 and number 8 turnouts. They just snap together, tight and snug and you can add ballast to hide the plastic. I will purchase it all there.

I know folks like hand laid track or Atlas flex track but you know what, I want to build it fast and when I am finished it will look just good and run great without any glitches.

But you're right, he owns the building. Little overhead and he servives because of his business skills. So if anyone is ever in Columbia, SC and you want to visit a great Hobby Shop, visit West Columbia.

Robert Sylvester

Newberry-Columbia, SC Line

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Posted by csxns on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 4:06 PM

robert sylvester
So if anyone is ever in Columbia, SC and you want to visit a great Hobby Shop, visit West Columbia. Robert Sylvester

Is that off I 26 i am thinking i can get their the same amount of time that it takes to get to Spencer NC.

Russell

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 4:29 PM

robert sylvester
I have decided to keep things simple and go with Bachman's E-Z track for the whole layout, now that they have  36'' and 38'' radii curves and number 6 and number 8 turnouts. They just snap together, tight and snug and you can add ballast to hide the plastic.

know folks like hand laid track or Atlas flex track but you know what, I want to build it fast and when I am finished it will look just good and run great without any glitches.

YMMV of course, but flex on cork would probably look better than Bachman E-Z track, which is aimed more at the carpet layout scenario.  I wouldn't put hand laid track in the same sentance as flex track when it comes to fast it will go down.  Obviously hand laid will take longer.  Flex goes down pretty fast and looks the best IMO.  Thats my opinion anyway.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 5:34 PM

robert sylvester
I have been going to the New Brookland Model RR Hobby Shop for over thirty years. I first noticed the store in an advertisement in Model RR

.

Robert, New Brookland is one of the best hobby shops I have visited. It is definitely worth driving out of your way to visit, and plan to spend some time.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 6:08 PM

Sorry, wrong topic.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 7:29 PM

How about me?

I moved from a high-tax state to a low-tax state when I retired.  There is an LHS very close by, but it caters to O gauge and Lionel.  I model HO.  Fortunately, I have most of what I need and want, and I am more likely to find the rest on line.

It's not just the shop owners who grow older and retire.  Many of us modelers do to.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by robert sylvester on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 4:38 PM

Russell:

Yes, when you get into Columbia on I-26 and are heading south after the curve where 126 heads down town and I-26 goes south, the next exit, you should see the Lexington Hospital on your right on the hill. Take the exit then turn left and head towards West Columbia. After a mile or two, just before you cross the Broad River you will see Codos on the left at a stop light, that's where you turn right. Go straight through the next light, proceed straight about two blocks and you will see a building on the left with a sign attached "New Brookland Model RR", can't miss it. His name is Joe an tell him Dr. Sylvester suggested his store.

Have fun.

Robert

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Posted by csxns on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 5:06 PM

robert sylvester
o Columbia on I-26

Think you hope to get their soon.

Russell

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 11:07 AM

Does anyone know what happened to Allied Trains in Los Angeles?

.

They were on my list of places I wanted to visit on my trip out West, but when I was in the area I could not find any information on them.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by maxman on Thursday, May 23, 2019 11:20 AM

robert sylvester
when you get into Columbia on I-26 and are heading south after the curve where 126 heads down town and I-26 goes south, the next exit, you should see the Lexington Hospital on your right on the hill. Take the exit then turn left and head towards West Columbia. After a mile or two, just before you cross the Broad River you will see Codos on the left at a stop light, that's where you turn right. Go straight through the next light, proceed straight about two blocks and you will see a building on the left with a sign attached "New Brookland Model RR"

Probably a lot easier to give a street address and let the GPS figure it out.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 11:52 AM

When ever this topic comes up, which seems to be frequently, a song pops into my head by the rock group Queen.   You probably know which one.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by BRAKIE on Thursday, May 23, 2019 1:43 PM

riogrande5761

When ever this topic comes up, which seems to be frequently, a song pops into my head by the rock group Queen.   You probably know which one.

 

Odd..I was thinking Billy Preston. 

I've seen a lot of things come and go over the years and what I miss the most was the gathering of the faithful every Saturday morning at the LHS to view and some times buy the newest models and discuss what improvements we would like in our models to see and several of those discussions  was about a power source that would cut down on block wiring. Of course some just knew that would never happen.Surprise

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:14 PM

BRAKIE

 

 
riogrande5761

When ever this topic comes up, which seems to be frequently, a song pops into my head by the rock group Queen.   You probably know which one.

 

 

 

Odd..I was thinking Billy Preston. 

I've seen a lot of things come and go over the years and what I miss the most was the gathering of the faithful every Saturday morning at the LHS to view and some times buy the newest models and discuss what improvements we would like in our models to see and several of those discussions  was about a power source that would cut down on block wiring. Of course some just knew that would never happen.Surprise

 

They call that dead rail!

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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:15 PM

SeeYou190

Does anyone know what happened to Allied Trains in Los Angeles?

.

They were on my list of places I wanted to visit on my trip out West, but when I was in the area I could not find any information on them.

.

-Kevin

.

 

They closed about 4 years ago.

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Posted by cuyama on Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:19 PM

SeeYou190
Does anyone know what happened to Allied Trains in Los Angeles?

Google does

Search String: Allied Trains close

Abstract: Expensive real estate, aging owner, sold to competitor, new owners closed store.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:44 PM

SeeYou190

Does anyone know what happened to Allied Trains in Los Angeles?

They were on my list of places I wanted to visit on my trip out West, but when I was in the area I could not find any information on them.

-Kevin

Weeeelll.... you should have scheduled your trip of a life time 4 years ago and you would have just caught them by a couple months.

I suppose with all the shops having closed, including Caboose Hobbies near Denver, Whistle Stop in Sacramento and others, lots of great shops  have closed down by now.  Unfortunately the trip was too late for a good many great train shops.

Posted August 28, 2015 on TrainOrders

Fire has extensively damaged a recently closed model train store in Culver City, authorities said Friday 

The fire at the former Allied Model Trains store in the 4300 block of Sepulveda Boulevard was reported at 9:45 p.m. Thursday, Culver City Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Nagy told a news videographer at the scene. Flames were visible from the front of the store when firefighters arrived, Nagy said. 

The fire was knocked down in five minutes, but the store was severely damaged, Nagy said. 

The company that owned the store declared insolvency and closed the premises on July 7 after 69 years in business, according to its website. 

A witness who gave his name as Edward told the videographer he saw a model train set ablaze inside the store. 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by mobilman44 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 5:45 PM

Decades ago, Model Railroader ran an interview with hobby shop owner(s), mainly because so many of us MRs thought that we would be in "hog heaven" to own one.

Well, that interview brought out a lot of the downsides of not only owning a hobby shop, but also of owning your own business.  Having grown up in a "Mom & Pop" business, and ultimately being a business analyst, I found the article extremely interesting and candid.

I believe the article, written perhaps in the mid '80s (?), would still be relevent today - except for one big difference.  Back then, "hobbyists" and "do it yourselfers" were everywhere.  Who didn't have a hobby back then?

But today, excluding hand held devices, hobbyists are significantly less in number.  And speaking for my area (north of Houston), "do it yourselfers" are few and far between.   

The monthly "nut" of having your own business in a brick/mortar store is unbelieveable!  Those fixed costs are always there.

Had a slow month?  Had to close the store a few days because of illness or vacation?  Your clerks didn't show up for work and you had to shut down early?  You got robbed/burglarized? 

Folks, it just doesn't matter......the monthly rent/mortgage still must be paid, utilities and insurance must be paid, salaries are due, and Walthers (or Horizon) must have their bills paid too.

Is there anything left over for the owner???   Oops, I forgot, what about taxes???

 

  

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, May 23, 2019 6:30 PM

OK, I've been watching to see where this would go........

Having worked in this business for about a decade when I was young, and having been self employed in other businesses most of my life after that, I have a few thoughts.

First, we could see the demise of the small local shop coming back in 1978. The shop owner I worked for tried to put together investors for a "Mega Store" which would have included discount prices and mail order (remember those days before the internet?).

Discounting by a few large stores and mail order houses was already hurting small local shops then.

AND, model trains, R/C planes, cars and boats, plastic models, were all on the cusp of the great advancements in product design and selection we enjoy now.

YES, we could see it coming, too much product for a small store to be representitive, too much pressure for lower prices, and back then, still a reasonable demand for good customer service.

So we figured a mega store, think a retail space the size of a small grocery store with a similar sized warehouse space, which could buy nearly everything direct from the manufacturers, and sell mail order to support the volume, could provide a large selection, still have that traditional over the counter service, and have competitive prices - it just takes money, big piles of it, to start something like that even from an exsisting successful smaller shop.

Had that plan come together, and been successful, my whole life may have been different - I was already the train department manager in the shop.......... I was only 21.......

Over the next 10 years that shop had to re-invent itself several times until the owner simply decided to do something else. He is still one of my dearest and closest friends and a very avid R/C airplane modeler.

So the modern shift to internet sales in all retail catagories is just like the last nail in the coffin making running a model train shop a tough way to make a living.

To qoute another retired train shop owner I know, "How do you make a small fortune in the hobby business? - Start with a large fortune!"

Truth be told, even back in the day, a fair percentage of hobby shop/model train shop owners where people with unusual personal situations that allowed them the luxury of being successful in this business.

For example - it is easier to get started if your father already has a successful retail business of a different type and lets you "piggyback" your train business in one corner of his shop. And then when he retires you inherit a paid for building to run your model train shop from.......

That is not to take anything away from the hard work and skill it took to build that business, it just points out that you don't just go to the bank and say "I want to open a model train store" and borrow a big pile of money and in five years you are TRAINWORLD or MB KLEIN.

Others had investment income, family money, real estate holdings, etc, such that the hobby store needed only to "not loose money", or even be a paper loss to offset other income on tax day.

But people, and banks, think differently about a lot of that kind of stuff today. So the choices people make regarding their time and money are different now.

Time marches on....

Even with my fond memories of working behind the hobby shop counter, I have to say, I really like www.sendittomenow.com

There is no going back, the world has forever changed from those days.....

Sheldon

 

    

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