Monday, September 1, 2014

My first hobby shop

Do you remember your first hobby shop? I do.

The year was 1982, a small Florida town about an hour north of Tampa. I was 14 years old. I had never filled seams, never used an airbrush, and had no idea that any other model-related companies existed beyond the Monogram and Revell kits I saw in TG&Y and K-Mart.

But then I found the now-defunct magazine Scale Modeler in a nearby bookstore, which opened my eyes to the lengths to which modelers were going to build museum-quality models. I also learned about IPMS and joined a club in nearby Ocala, a metropolis compared to tiny Inverness. Between the magazine and the club, I began to enjoy the hobby deeper than I had before, and Carl’s Hobbies was a haven for me in the middle of the vast tracts of forest and orange groves of Central Florida.

Location of the former Carl's Hobbies
The shop was small, I’d guess about 750 square feet. It had a typical layout: display case and cash register up front, long shelves lining each wall to the left and right, and a shelving unit down the center of the shop. As I recall Carl didn’t have much stock model-wise. He had maybe 50 kits. (I had 15 in my stash at the time, which I thought was a lot.) But the cool thing was he had kits I’d never seen before. Hasegawa, Tamiya, Airfix. Who knew there was so much variety? Prices were retail, which hurt this kid making only $3.60/hour bagging groceries at nearby Kash ‘n’ Karry. I remember eying the super-cool looking Tamiya 1/35 Merkava for over a year before finally breaking down and paying $24 for it. (Was it even that much?)

Guess what. That Merkava is still in my stash!
I got to know Carl fairly well. He periodically donated models to the model club of my AFJROTC squadron, and he kindly chatted with me and my friends even when we didn’t buy much. His business saw some success, because when a new strip mall was built on the other side of town he moved his shop into a larger space. I don’t think he survived there longer than three or four years though. I remember coming home on leave after I’d joined the Air Force to find his shop was gone.

Inverness is a small town today, but it was much, much smaller back then. That it even had a hobby shop was remarkable. At the very least the shop provided an environment that inspired a least a few of us young scale modelers. We didn’t know how good we had it. Such as it was.

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