You can imagine how surprised and
excited I was a few days ago, after finding
out that the owner had instead sold the
store to one of his employees. The new
owner is himself an avid RC enthusiast
and worked his way through high school
and college behind these very counters.
His firsthand knowledge of the local
customers will no doubt prove a valuable
asset that online retailers can’t offer,
and many of us are pulling for him to
succeed. Good luck, Jason!
The other? My son and I found
ourselves driving through Middletown,
Connecticut, a few weeks ago and, while
stopped at a traffic light, I happened to
notice the brick façade of Amatos Toy
and Hobby on Main Street. We had some
time, so we parked, fed the meter, and
walked in to see what it was about.
Yes, the name of the business is
accurate. Amatos is first and foremost a
well-stocked toy shop that suits a larger
general population. Fortunately for
hobbyists, the merchandise extends far
beyond the wooden Thomas the Tank
Engine trains. Perhaps half or more of
the space is dedicated to what we would
consider hobby merchandise.
We found the largest selection of
model rockets I have seen in years, as
well as a strong model railroad presence
and a few aisles of static models of all
persuasions. My son was pleased to find
merit badge guidebooks in the Boy Scout
aisle, while I was looking at things that fly.
Amatos has a reasonable selection of
model aircraft, with numerous Guillow’s
Free Flight kits complementing the latest
ARF/RTF offerings from Hobbico and
Horizon Hobby. If you don’t see what
you want, the staff can get it in for you in
a few days.
While walking the aisles, I couldn’t
help but ponder the “
chicken-versus-the-egg” dynamics of how a hobby store
melds with its community. How much
do the interests of local customers drive
the stocking decisions in the store, or
is it that local hobby activity is more
a reflection of what the shop owner
decides to have on the shelves?
The answer of course, is that a store
and its customers must form a symbiotic
relationship for the business to ensure
the right product is in stock, and thus its
Amatos Toy and Hobby has been
operating for more than 75 years, and
with two successful locations, the
company clearly knows what it is doing.
It was encouraging to see the breadth of
product filling the shelves and several
knowledgeable staffers on the floor.
The staff was in the midst of renovating
what seemed to be an extensive train
room display while we were there, and
my son and I both look forward to going
back in a few more months to see what
we missed just beyond the polite “This
Area Closed” signs.
Keeping Them Open
There is no putting the Internet genie
back into its bottle, no matter how much
we want to wax nostalgic about our
favorite mom-and-pop hobby shops.
As much as we all like a bargain, we
also need to consciously realize that
our shopping decisions truly affect the
vitality of our local communities.
AROUND THE PATCH