Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A favorite hobby shop 30 years later

“Maybe you had to leave in order to miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” 

That is Jodi Picoult from her novel Handle With Care. I came across it recently after spending a long weekend in Orlando for the IPMS National Convention. Because I was in the area I thought it would be fun to make a quick trip to one of the more memorable hobby shops I’ve been to, Colonial Photo & Hobby.

If you’ve been in the hobby for more than a few years you’ve had the opportunity to visit many different hobby shops. I’m not the only guy who seeks them out when traveling for business or spending a vacation with the family. A quick glance at the forums will find quite a few inquiries from modelers looking for advice on local hobby shops to check out. Visiting hobby shops can be a hobby within the hobby!

I sometimes think about listing or counting up all the shops I’ve been to, but I’m afraid I’d forget a few only to remember them a day or a week later and then feel compelled to recount. With Election Day just around the corner here in the United States, the only recount I want to know about is one in Florida.

I don’t have to make a list of hobby shops to know that a handful would immediately come to mind; those would be the shops that are most special to me. One of them is Colonial Hobby.

I grew up in Florida, about 90 minutes northwest of Orlando. I first visited the shop sometime around 1983. I don’t remember the exact date of course, but I do remember going there with my friend David and his father Larry, one of my early mentors in the hobby. (That’s David looking cool under the colonnade of the distinctive, Art Deco building.) It wasn’t a great shop -- and still isn’t -- but I remember they had a decent variety of kits and modeling supplies that I couldn’t find in the area of Florida where I lived. At the time that was more than enough to light my fire for the hobby.

I also remember what I bought. The Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 Phantoms were relatively new to the market, and Colonial had them in stock! The price? A whopping $21. At the time that was a lot of money for a 15 year-old kid. Nonetheless, I dug deep into my pocket and bought the F-4B/N, which I still have in my stash…and fully intend to build. Some day.

It was surreal being back in Colonial Hobby nearly 30 years later, knowing that some of the employees weren't even born when I was there. If my poor memory serves me correctly, the layout is basically the same, though the model kits are now located at the front of the shop rather than at the back. That’s where I found one of the latest additions to the stash, a Testors 1/48 O-2 Skymaster, which David will tell you I’ve always been fond of. I wonder if it will still be in my stash 30 years from now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

U-2 pattern work

All this guy is doing is flying a simple pattern around the airport. Big deal, right? I mean, I did the same thing in a Cessna 152 back in 1986. But the fact that he's doing it in a U-2 makes it ridiculously cool!

Watch it full-screen, 1080 HD if you can.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Revell, the world, and 2013

Earlier today Revell announced their 2013 releases. That list, combined with a close listen to their visit to the Plastic Scale Modeling Hour webcast, provides some insight into Revell's product decisions.

Before we talk about these new releases, I want to highlight some of the more interesting things I learned when I listened to  Gerald "Hawkeye" Voigt's webcast, which featured Revell USA product manager Ed Sexton and engineer Roger Harney.

First, I was thrilled to find that Hawkeye had selected a question I submitted prior to the show, asking how the Asian manufacturers such as Trumpeter and Hobby Boss, have affected Revell's product decisions. In a nutshell, they don't. Revell is focused on the American market and producing kits at a certain price point that appeals to their customers. By comparison, the Asian companies are producing kits for a worldwide market and at a higher price point, so Revell isn't really responding to what they do.

Revell-Germany, however, targets a wider, international market and works independently of Revell USA. This is why we see many Euro-centric subjects from them, such as the SA330J Puma, Mercedes SLS, and Formula 1 cars. What I found most interesting, however, is that Revell-Germany doesn't work through distributors, instead taking products directly to retailers and customers. (You can buy their models online directly from Revell Germany!) Ed said those closer relationships with customers affects their product decisions, implying (my opinion here) that Revell Germany is able to make better choices. 

I find this surprising given the new media that are now available to large manufacturers. There's simply no reason for any manufacturer in any industry not to hear the voice of the customer. Consider Revell has nearly 8,500 "Likes" on their Facebook page. I have to believe they can get a great deal of feedback from their customers to inform product decisions, and it wouldn't be difficult to set up a web-based network for retailers to solicit their input as well. The distributor system is looking incredibly clunky to me.

Looking ahead to 2013, there are exciting releases among a number of re-pops. Even though I've talked mostly about aircraft here on Scale Model Soup, I'm a big fan of American muscle cars, so Revell's new-tool '92 Mustang and '70 Hemi Cuda will be compelling new releases, and I'll be interested to see how their molding and detail compares to comparable kits from other manufacturers. I'm also intrigued by their partnership with Chip Foose; in fact, I'm surprised it's taken this long for Foose to partner with a model manufacturer. Although I'm not a big fan of Foose's designs, I appreciate his creativity and hope the Charger and Impala in Revell's Chip Foose collection inspire more than a few young people to get into scale modeling and explore automotive design as a career choice.

In the meantime, let's build a model!