Talk Me Out Of This Idea...

Started by AeroplaneDriver, February 09, 2021, 08:52:50 PM

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One of my lifelong dreams has been to own a hobby shop.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this dream among this group.

A small retail space in our small town in a very visible spot on a heavily travelled Main Street has just become available for $500/month.

We just bought a new house last Summer, so we have bills to pay, but have enough in savings to cover 10 months of bills with zero income.

The state of the airline business right now has my employer offering 12 month Leaves of Absence with full benefits and 33% pay, or I could take a reduced schedule where I work half my schedule for half my pay.  33% would pay most of our bills.  Half pay would pay them all but with little left over. 

SWMBO just started a new job making a very respectable income that could pay all of sour bills if needed. 

I dream of a small town hobby shop selling to walk in customer and online, trying to build interest in the hobby by holding contests and doing veteran and school reach out programs, including holding classes and workshops on model building. 

It is probably a poo-poo idea. 

Your job is to talk me out of it. 


So I got that going for me...which is nice....


there are 3 Reasons i Could Cite for NOT owning a Hobby Shop:1.all the Start up Costs,Making Contact with Suppliers.etc. 2. how do You balance Life & Work,including Weekends,Holidays,etc. 3. al The Taxes,Fees,Rent & Dealing with Monkeyheads Who expect You to Meet ALL their Stipulation,Just to Start Your Business. i Knew a Local Hobby Shop Owner Here Where i Live. it was Fun but Also Tricky with everything  He had to deal with.to Sum it up:Don't Do It! Dan

Old Wombat

1. What are the base overheads? - Rent, power, water, insurance, your base-level salary/wage, taxes, Health & Safety requirements, etc.
2. Do you have any idea of what will sell & an idea of what has a highly probable chance of selling in your area - You'll need these to generate the base income for the shop, to cover the base overheads.
3. Is there a sufficient population in your area, of the right age groups to give you a sufficient potential client base?
4. Do you know how to go about contacting suppliers & getting stock in - Lots of established hobby retailers are struggling to get sufficient supplies at the moment from overseas sourced suppliers.
5. If you're still flying, how do you balance that schedule with minimum regular hours for the shop? - People won't come if the hours are all over the place.
6. Most businesses fail inside the first 12 months, leaving the owners with 10's of thousands of dollars of debt. - Can you & your wife cope with that?

Those are some of the things that have kept me from starting any of the several business ideas I've wanted to run with, including running my own hobby shop. :angel:

On the other hand; I want to tell you to go for it & try to live your dream! You only live once & there are only so many chances that present themselves in life! :wacko:
Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est


I see the motivation, but it is HARD business and has to be thought through well. Shop location is a big issue, and when you have good public traffic outside it's a plus. On the other side, you have to keep an eye on opening hours and personal time investment to run the shop. An LHS in the regions opens just a single day a month(!), and the shop is more or less a semi-public storage space (which looks like probably many modelers' stash/hoard), with biggest focus on online sales. The location is obscure, though, off of a main street between two cities, in a mezzanine above a workshop somewhere in the back of a yard... And there's the cost issue, including rent etc. and the investment in stock. This can easily run out of bounds. Not an easy decision, esp.in these times - personally, I would not dare this step, but I am not the entrepreneur type.  :rolleyes:


I am going to go against the mood.  I say, "Don't do it".  Why?  Because you already have a career and unless you are willing to give it up and undertake this 100%, you will not be able to devote sufficient time and resources to make it work.  Business is well business and requires a particular mindset one that intends to devote 100% to it.  You will not be able to do that as long as you're a commercial pilot.   That is reality.  You can do both jobs, trying to juggle your time between the two or you can do one well.  I assume you also have a family and a wife.  Neither will thank you when you neglect them.   The days of the LHS are numbered.  Today, it is online sales and while you could do that, walk in sales will not carry your shop.
How to reduce carbon emissions - Tip #1 - Walk to the Bar for drinks.

Old Wombat

I AM trying to talk Nick out of it, Brian, believe me! :rolleyes:

I've looked at starting up several businesses from a security company to, as I said, a hobby shop & I've started none of them because of the time & money needing to be invested with no guarantee of success or even a return on my investment.

BUT, if Nick can find a successful business model that guarantees at least a small residual, & it's REALLY something he wants to do ... Well, sometimes merely doing something you love is more important than money.

Not for me, though, I need my regular income! ;D
Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est


Beware of making your hobby your job as you may end up hating your hobby.  On the other hand you may not.  I have known examples of both.

- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


I don't  know what restrictions are like where you are but it's been a very bad year for retail due to COVID


These days I think you should actually start off trading online and maybe move into a shop later. That way you can find out what sells and makes a real profit. You will also learn just how much you enjoy this new job and if it's worth carrying on.

Don't overlook the internet side of things. You need to invest in a good website that gains publicity and allows for online sales. Most of your sales will eventually be online.

Look at banking fees - how much for card transactions, cash deposits, making change?

Branding - you need a good and recognisable business name and a logo that stands out.

Good luck if you do try it. You won't have much time for your own modelmaking or getting on here much.


I think most of the pros and cons have been covered by people above. All I'll say is that in my opinion it's really only a business that you should consider once you have retired from the day job, have a pension you can comfortably live off and can almost treat it as an extension to your hobby.

One possible down side is the strain it could put on relationships if and when the going gets tough. They need to be strong to survive, but if they are it can strengthen them. So at the end of the day it's a decision you and your better half need to arrive at together.

Whatever you choose, best of luck  :thumbsup:

Please note however I am talking from a purely UK perspective and have no idea what the circumstances would be like in the US as a whole let alone specific areas.
Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.


I say go for it. Try on line first with stock that you know will sell. Take a leaf out of Freightdog,  you know what types of kits that we are after or aftermarket kits and what prices we will pay. It's all about shifting your stock and marketing. You can build the show models in half revealing the interiors. Yes it can be very frustrating but rewarding. I used to be a self employed French Polisher it was great when I was busy but once the recession took hold the work just dried up and I went into the security industry.
Likewise I followed my heart and became a Trade plate driver,  did that for six months and got to drive loads of different cars but the pay was crap,  seasonal work,  I ran out of money.
A short term lease would be best.
Good luck on whatever you decide  :thumbsup:


I can replace you in cockpit in the mean time. Travelling legally seems a nice way to do business after this year..  ;)
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Glenn Gilbertson

Usually I would say "follow your dream", but not this time. Many of us have happy memories of hours chatting in an LHS, but retailing has changed forever, and hobby shops are not exempt from the general move online. What would be your unique selling point to attract customers? Many a busy business has failed because of overheads, and the major online retailers have a built-in advantage in this.
My wife and I ran a business for many years, and to be successful you have to be dedicated to it full time. Obviously I cannot know your potential customer base, but maybe if one day you can retire with a good pension a hobby shop run more as a social club that covers its own costs might be viable - if enough people will regularly spend sufficiently to cover overheads and if any shopping centres survive.
Can you produce some unique accessories which would develop an online customer base to be supplied from home?
Now to be more positive  -you " dream of a small town hobby shop selling to walk in customer and online, trying to build interest in the hobby by holding contests and doing veteran and school reach out programs, including holding classes and workshops on model building"; you can do all those good things without the millstone of a shop by starting some sort of social club to have the pleasure of using your talents to attract newcomers to the hobby that we love. IMHO that would give you a happier life combining flying with modelling and outreach, still giving quality family time.
Good luck anyway with whatever you decide - but I think that your very question tells you that an LHS isn't the way to go!
Hope that helps.


All good points made by everyone. The things that concern me the most is having enough market to sell to and selling the right things. Although I agree that the kids who are the future of this hobby aren't going to drop $50 or more on a kit. At least I wouldn't have, even adjusted for inflation over the last XX years. What could be a decent quality, lower priced range of kits? The old Tamiya Walker Bulldog tank kit is still selling at my local Hobby Lobby. At least until you build up clientele. And of course the internet sales is vital. I suggest don't be afraid to hire an expert in a field you may not know much about like websites and internet traffic. The time and money they save you could be considerable. Lawyers and accountants fall into this to. In the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" the author talks about how he made money in real estate and how he hired good professionals like real estate agents, accountants and lawyers and paid them well to help him make money. I'm not a super expert, just my $0.02.
" Somewhere, between half true, and completely crazy, is a rainbow of nice colours "
Tophe the Wise


I think everybody else has covered the same points I'd make.

Random thoughts on the subject:

Personally, I wouldn't DREAM of opening a bricks-and-mortar shop until I had an online business up and running profitably. Then, if I did get a shop, I'd focus of selling the things that modellers need in a hurry and can't get easily or quickly enough online: paint, glue, materials: the sort of thing that you run out of on Sunday afternoon just before the shops shut. That means you need to be open odd hours and have a location that lots of modellers can get to. of course, once they've come for a tin of paint, there's no reason why they shouldn't have a quick browse of the kit stock, right?

Parking is vital. Modellers are thin enough on the ground these days that 'passing trade' isn't really a thing: model shops are 'destinations' that people specifically go out to or include on a errand-running trip. If going there means paying a fortune to park and then walking for half and hour to get to the shop, that will result in the shop visit being dropped from the itinerary more often than not.

Modellers are often older men with families. Consider how location interacts with that. He's much more able to get a model-shop visit onto the family agenda if there's things at the same place that will entertain the wife and kids too. Locally, we have a garden centre that rents out units in the grounds, and there's a long-standing railway/model shop in one of those. Genius move IMHO: the number of conversations I've heard in there along the lines of "well, time to go and see what the wife and kids have bought while I've been in here..."
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