Hold up a glass and remember the good days for a moment. Another local hobby shop is going out of business. Sure you are thinking, what’s the big deal. And I am inclined to agree with you, from the standpoint of the local hobby shop is a thing of the past at least that business model. And yes, I can get many of the things found in hobby shops at big box stores or online; cheaper even. However, that is not the point.
Local hobby shops are where I spent most of my time when I was not at the video game arcade (remember those? anyone?), at school, or at home. Local hobby shops were wondrous places full of things to see, touch, read, want, and ultimately purchase. Much like used bookstores there is a certain musty smell that goes with any local hobby shop. Not a negative at all, just one of those things.
Trains, train sets, little people to put in my train diorama, slot cars, books, paints, wood, plastic, and so on. Every aisle held new treasures to find and new things to learn. I spent so much time in hobby shops that eventually I went to work in one. I learned more about people and stuff–remote control vehicles and radio frequencies to metal detectors and telescopes to kites and model rockets to trains and model kits there was so much that I learned, experienced, tried, and learned to love.
Notice I didn’t mention the games. Games came along later in the evolution of the hobby shop. Hobby shops being home of niche activities was one of the first places to accept games, gaming, and gamers. Not a walking wallets, but as fellow niche enthusiasts. I remember purchasing my first D&D module off of a magazine rack after spending a lot of time reading the brightly colored back. I remember getting my first set of lead (not plastic, but honest to deity lead) miniatures of orcs. Hobby shops were well I felt welcome with my niche hobby of roleplaying games and make no mistake when I was a kid reading and playing D&D it was a very misunderstood niche hobby/activity.
Not a hobby stores.
Unfortunately or fortunately, life and hobbies move on. I think it is good that most hobbies have moved out of the niche into the mainstream and can be found just about anywhere. I do not miss the days where saying you played games, were a gamer, or especially played roleplaying games was followed by a cringe from the listener or a scolding about the dangers of “those” activities. I am saddened by the slow death of so many local hobby shops.
Hobby shops are staffed by enthusiastic individuals who are involved with the hobby. Who are happy to chat with you and listen to you talk about your hobby. Who are more than happy to help you get more involved with your hobby. Big box stores and online, not at all; you are a walking wallet to them. Hobby shops get the esoteric items that you, the hobbyist, MUST have for your collection or set or project and they are happy to wade through 1,200 page catalogs with tiny pictures and crappy description to find it. I know, I did this all of the time.
Mountain Town Hobby’s in Mount Pleasant closes their doors in 23 days. It was from what we could tell on our visit, a classic local hobby store. The proprietor was happy to see us, especially when we bought all of her dice and some other stuff. Did we need the dice and other stuff? No. But I bought it because it felt right and because…well because I have so many positive memories of being a hobby shop that I wanted to do something for her, even if I was too late.