“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.