A Day in the Life of a Hobby Dealer
November 1962 American Modeler
a good bet that many modelers, myself included, have dreamed about
owning a hobby shop. How nice it would be to spend our days amongst
walls, shelves, and display cases filled with every type of modeling
kit and accessory. Melanie and I actually looked into buying one
when we lived in Colorado Springs in the early 1990s. It's a good
thing we didn't in retrospect, given the way the local hobby shop
(LHS) has suffered tremendously since Internet-based purchases have
become so popular - especially being tax-free in most areas. There
are still big hobby shops left, but they are few and far between.
I'm as guilty as the next guy for not doing more to support my LHS
(we have two
hobby shops in Erie), but usually it's for convenience sake
more so than price and not paying sales tax.
from the November 1962 edition of American Modeler, a time when
local hobby shops were still the rule rather than the exception,
is a humorous "day in the life of a hobby dealer." You can just
imagine how plausible the scenario might be. Not all days could
be that bad, however, or they would have all shut their doors.
A Day In The Life Of A Hobby Dealer
by Dick Schwartzchild
If you feel strong enough, join us
as we attempt to shine a faded beam of light into a typical day
in the life of your local hobby dealer. This should also serve as
inspirational reading for those who would like to join our ranks.
It is an established fact that one of the quickest ways to make
a great deal of money in a hurry, even retire to the sunny sands
of Florida before the age of 17, is to own a hobby shop. Since this
easy way of life holds so much appeal, let us follow Harry Hobby
from his first joyful eye-opening moment one morning.
(A.M.) Jangle of phone wakes Harry as boisterous chap who purchased
pool table from local gas station last Christmas wants to know if
hobby shop repair department can grease the unit.
Back to sleep. Dreams of skin-diving and shooting sharks.
4:59 Call from youngster asking if store will be
open in time for him to purchase one yard of plastic lace (3¢) before
5:00 Back to sleep. Dreams of
5:18 Call to inquire
if hobby shop carries pints of model airplane fuel. Harry asks what
kind. Caller answers ... "clear."
to sleep. Not clear what nightmare is all about.
First call of day asking for a contribution. Is two-part request
1) Money; 2) Blood.
5:37 Since further sleep
is out of the question, Harry arises, clothes himself, stumbles
out back door to his. spiffy 1913 station wagon. Drives to his spotless
store, gathers up accumulated cartons and garbage, and heads for
8:38 Returns home from dump. It doesn't
open until 10:30.
8:45 Sits down for breakfast
as phone rings. "What time does your store open?"
Returns to table for meal. Wife points out that if he can break
away before midnight he will have seen his children at least once
8:52 Climbs back into chariot and
hurries to store. Notes that carefree youngsters have spread chewing
gum across front window. Admires art work.
Eventually gets door open - after getting gum out of lock, flips
on lights. Listens to purr of the light meter as it spins merrily
while adding up his bill.
9:00 Opens safe (stout
cigar box) and fills register with receipts from yesterday. Makes
mental note to get more change in the event someone shows up with
a 50-cent piece.
9:03 First customer! No, just a den
mother from an out-of-state troop looking for a contribution.
9:31 First phone call asking ... "What time
do you close?"
9:48 Mother with slip of paper
in hand which neither she nor Harry can decipher. Says mom, "Too
bad, he told me you would be sure to have it."
Fella looking for change for parking meter.
Mailman staggers in under heavy load of bills. "Nice day, isn't
10:54 First customer of the day buys 10¢
tube of plastic cement.
10:55 Tube of cement
returned - customer needs dime to make phone call.
Working on "strength-in-numbers" theory, 16 mothers march in to
request contribution for man who would like to open a hobby shop
down the street.
11:13 -12:02 (P.M.) Slight
ear chewing by non-buying visitor who describes minutely all of
the wonderful hobby merchandise he picked up while out of town.
12:03 Ambulance leaves from front of store now
12:09 First big sale
of day. Customer spends 12 minutes picking out three 6¢ strips of
balsa. Customer questions, "How come you only have 238 pieces of
this size for me to look at?"
picking up. One woman informed repair department doesn't put new
soles on shoes. Another told most hobby shops no longer carry a
complete selection of crutch tips. Elderly gentleman advised best
place to obtain a book on mushroom raising would be in Kennett Square,
Pa., or the public library.
12:30 Lunch time,
but with grand total of 18¢ in till, Harry decides to wait until
he can afford a dessert at least.
asks to see large wood boats. Harry shows him models in $20 range.
Customer asks to see even larger ones. Harry pulls out all the stops.
Customer walks out commenting, "Just wanted to see how large they
1:04 15¢ bottle of dope sold to
woman to paint daughter's ballet costume .
European fireman stops in for contribution to his outfit's "checker
1:28 Busy businessman rushes in to get
paint brush. Unhappy as to high (10c) price. Leaves with brush but
vows to turn entire matter over to Better Business Bureau.
1:35 First real break in the day. Customer turns
out to be the meter reader for the gas company.
Man stops in to have Harry put three drops in each eye from bottle
of eye drops.
1:58 Woman returns ready-to-fly
plane purchased day before. Only prop hub remains. Says woman, "Can't
understand it ... all my son did was just turn the propeller once
by hand ..."
2:18 Salesman for water pistol
manufacturer comes in to demonstrate product. Pistol drips all over
newly waxed floor. Salesman departs without order ... Harry looks
Floor dried up in time for muddy-shoe'ed woman (it started to rain)
to clomp down the middle of the store then back out mumbling, "I
thought it was the public lounge."
enters to ask where the wintergreen is located. After rather short
pointed explanation by Harry woman leaves commenting, "I thought
it was a drug store."
2:43 Big sale as mother
buys 49¢ kit to mail out of town, Profits diminished when customer
demands and gets free gift wrapping, fancy gift card ... plus stamps
3:16 Phone call asking, "Do you
know where I can get tickets for a bull fight in Mexico?"
3:31 School's OUT and the kids flock IN. Youngster
responsible for predawn call actually buys one yard of lace! Three
youngsters purchase 10¢ tubes of plastic cement for kits just procured
in 5¢ and 10¢ store. Seven find way to magazine to look at pictures
of planes and trains. One pores through pricing book for coins.
Harry faces major problem answering question from one: "Do you carry
three foot sections of flexible HO track?" "Yes." "How long are
3:49 Woman enters to complain about
dead fly in window display. Declares she will turn the matter over
to the local ASPCA chapter.
4:12 Wandering R/C
flyer enters to ask for 6 inches of 1/34,727th rubber which he can't
obtain at town's main discount store.
returns for its second call of the day at same address.
4:14 Ambulance serves to remind one youngster to ask
for Band-Aid for finger cut with prop bought in store three weeks
4 :25 Customer returns roll of camera
film with violent complaints about the store's merchandise. Informed
wrong store, no film sold. Complains that store doesn't stock film.
4 :39 Model airplane flyer, member of club sponsored
by competing hobby shops comes in to ask for contribution to his
club's "fuel fund."
4:47 Phone call asking what
time store closes Christmas eve (which is just six months away).
:59 Youngster matches up to railroad counter to ask,
"How much are the 10¢ gliders?"
A "much-impressed-with-himself" type father stops in with his son.
Dad crushes plastic counter display with ham-like hand. Notices
"HANDS OFF" sign when opening fingers, Tells son the product "isn't
like they made 'em in the good old days." Lets pieces drop to floor
as both withdraw.
5:10 Youngster reports dime
lost in soda machine. Dime returned. Youngster purchases glider
with dime. Harry puzzles about transaction.
Phone call asks if store will be open on Thanksgiving Day evening.
5:27 Realization comes that entire "pilfer
proof" rack supplied by manufacturer disappeared sometime during
5:30 Three fathers arrive to
purchase king-sized electric slot-race outfit to extend around entire
80' x 160' basement of one. Leave with a single 49¢ car kit to determine
"if we like the hobby."
5:41 Model airplane
dripping gas copiously across the floor is carried in. Owner asks
where you strap on the battery.
5:57 Phone call
asks what time store closes on St. Patrick's Day.
6:09 Big sale of two 10¢ decals breaks early evening
lull. Mother who first appeared at 9 :48 returns to explain that
her youngster can't figure out his note either, but both know it
is quite important. Harry still at same loss. Gives her a free catalog
to make her happier.
6:17 Store fills with "just
looking'ers." Three sales which result unexpectedly total $846.
None of the three buyers has any identification and each wants to
pay by check. Harry tearfully returns merchandise to shelves.
Gas model boat builder comes in demanding "rooster tail" kit to
hang behind boat.
6:45 Store closed for
10 minutes while Harry grabs hamburger. Returns to find note on
door: "We traveled 340 miles to buy a complete train outfit from
you, but since you were shut tight, we went to the drug store down
the street to get it. You're no credit to the hobby industry!"
7:07 Lengthy lecture by customer on the relative
merits of various local hobby dealers terminates in sale of 8¢ push
7:25 Mother-of-9:48 returns with
news that her son is fairly sure he wanted some bottles of chemicals.
With 50 different chemicals in stock Harry is tempted ... but sends
woman home again with another catalog.
Evening rush starts as hard working dads replace their sons at magazine
rack to look at pictures.
8:09 Phone call
to ask what is the speed limit on the Turnpike and will the toll
booth accept credit cards?
8:11 Women's group
stops by to ask for contribution for building of swimming pool to
keep youngsters away from those "dangerous model airplanes."
8:21 Salesman appears to make pitch for complete
set of books directed to all "executive types." No sale.
8:37 Ferrari pulls up at front door. Owner hops
out to ask for model of his car. When 49¢ price tag proves too rich
for his blood he leaves without making purchase.
Adult tap dancing class starts its practice session on floor above
forcing fresh-air customers in store to raise voices slightly. (Not
too bad in the evenings, but those Saturday afternoon classes are
8:48 Night man at Better Business
Bureau calls concerning complaint about 10¢ brush sold earlier that
8:59 Preparations made too close store
after short 12-hour business "day."
Key turned in lock. Car races up and woman calls out, "You'll stay
open a minute longer for us, won't you?"
Key back in lock and door again closed. Woman wanted to thumb through
all the paint-by-number sets. Offered, upon leaving, if she were
ever in the area again, to stop in again for a chat.
Home, supper, and a phone call, "What time is your store open in
Go ahead, show this tale of woe to your local
hobby dealer! Ask him if it isn't all true. Then ask him if he wants
to sell his business. We'll bet dollars to donuts he wouldn't part
with it ... too much fun meeting readers like YOU!
Posted October 30, 2011
Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain
some form of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey
through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which
all began in Mayo, MD. There
is a lot of good information and there are lot
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even bring back some old memories from your own days of yore. The website began life around
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