About Us

Our Mission: To Help Hobby Retailers Grow.

The HobbyTown story begins in Lincoln, Nebraska (where our national headquarters remains today). Merlin Hayes, Mary Hayes and Thom Walla founded HobbyTown Unlimited Inc. in 1985 and opened the first franchise store in 1986. Today, there are more than 120 stores nationwide, making us the leader in the retail hobby and specialty toy industry.

Our Franchise Owners take pride in providing unparalleled customer service, achieving higher than industry average inventory turns and retail sales per square foot. In our stores and online, we are constantly testing new products and technologies to increase sales. We grow through innovation, and our Franchise Owners are empowered to explore new product ideas and make independent buying decisions. In turn, we provide them with business intelligence and national sales data to help them optimize their inventory strategies.

Our Vision

We have become the foremost resource and destination for family fun and entertainment by embracing, supporting and maximizing the strengths and diversity of each Franchise Owner.

Our Core Values

We Bring It Every Day

We energetically share our passion for hobbies with contagious enthusiasm. Customers will always enjoy an exceptional shopping experience that exceeds expectations. Bringing it is not a spectator sport, bringing it is making (not watching) things happen.

Cultivate Growth

We believe growth is achieved by exceeding the expectations of each individual customer. We relentlessly pursue the development of ourselves and others to foster growth. We believe growth is a process that requires consistent effort.

Lead & Serve

We lead by aspiring to be our best and giving our best to others at all times. We serve by always maintaining a positive and welcoming environment for all. We aspire to be an asset to our community by making free time awesome!

Keep Calm & Hobby On

Wisdom and knowledge come with experience. In the face of adversity, we stay calm and focused on finding a solution or a better way. We always seek to first understand, act, then hobby on.

Providing Great Times for our Customers and Franchise Owners for Years.

1980 1980
1985 1985
1989 1989
1991 1991
1993 1993
1994 1994
1997 1997
1998 1998
2003 2003
2010 2010
2012 2012
2013 2013
2016 2016
2017 2017
2018 2018


Opening of 1st Store

Lincoln, NE


The first HobbyTown franchise is opened in Colorado Springs, CO.


The name “HobbyTown USA” is adopted and registered as our new identity – along with red, white and blue as “official” company colors.


HobbyTown USA debuts in the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 at #419.


Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas becomes the 1st HobbyTown USA franchise store to exceed $1,000,000 in sales.


Lincoln, NE The first HobbyTown USA National Convention is held in Lincoln.


Franchise-wide sales surpass $50,000,000.


BuyersClub is established.


SMART Point of Sale (POS) is launched.


HTUWebComm launched to provide real time connection to franchise stores.


Colorado Partnership for the first Co-Branded locations in Aurora and Lakewood, CO.


Teammates Youth Mentoring program adopted as official HTU charity.


hobbytown.com relaunched with AMain.


National Branding Program Launched.


RadioShack Partnership Launched.


  • Thom Walla

    Thom Walla

    Thomas A. Walla, co-founder of HobbyTown and CEO of HobbyTown Unlimited, Inc. located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mr. Walla continues to be involved in the sale and operation of HobbyTown franchises. His favorite Hobbies are Gaming and Board Games.
  • Bob Wilke

    Bob Wilke

    Joining HobbyTown as a franchisee in 1987, Bob has been at HTU Corporate since 1992 and has served as President of HobbyTown since 2009. Bob has served as President of the Hobby Manufacturers Association and has been actively involved in developing corporate relationships in both the hobby and toy industries. Locally, he has been a passionate recruiter and participant in the Teammates Youth Mentoring program. His favorite hobbies include family games, puzzles and anything to get him outdoors.
  • Tim Van Ert
    Senior VP of Merchandising

    Tim Van Ert

    Senior VP of Merchandising
    In 2003, Tim Van Ert became Senior Vice President of HobbyTown. He oversees the marketing departments and manages the product database, point-of-sale software, and office computer operations. From 1995 to 2003, Tim was Vice President of Information Technology at HobbyTown, then transitioned into leading up the Merchandising Team in Lincoln, Nebraska. Tim’s favorite hobby is Nerf wars with the home office staff.
  • David Gaines
    VP of Franchise Services

    David Gaines

    VP of Franchise Services
    David Gaines has served as Vice President of Franchise Services of HobbyTown since 2006. Mr. Gaines' responsibilities include overseeing Franchise Business Advisors, Corporate Accountants and Accounts Payable Specialists, and field service support operations, which includes activities such as in-store training, 90 day visits and store visits. He has extensive knowledge on overall store operations and financial analysis skills, with an emphasis on communication and customer service. Mr. Gaines has been with HobbyTown since April, 2001, in Lincoln, Nebraska. David’s favorite hobby is his collection of die cast sprint cars.
  • Todd Anderson
    VP of Operations

    Todd Anderson

    VP of Operations
    Todd Anderson has worked for HobbyTown in Lincoln, NE since 1995. In 2000, Todd became the Vice President of Operation for HobbyTown. Todd is responsible for assisting franchisees in all aspects of the store opening process as well as overseeing the distribution center and warehouse. Todd uses his experiences from owning a HobbyTown franchise store in the late 80’s and early 90’s to help others achieve their ownership dreams. When not helping with new store openings or product shipments to franchisees, Todd enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. His favorite hobby is working on his quadcopter and building a train layout.
  • Eric Thompson
    Chief Financial Officer

    Eric Thompson

    Chief Financial Officer
    Eric joined HobbyTown October 2003.  His responsibilities include financial statements, budgeting, cash management, and tax and franchising law compliance for corporate operations. He also assists franchisees with financing alternatives, provides analysis of sales reports and income statements, and assisting owners with financial and accounting questions. His favorite hobby is his collection of RC Cars and racing them around with his son.
  • Jason Swanson
    Director of Purchasing and Distribution

    Jason Swanson

    Director of Purchasing and Distribution
    Jason Swanson is the Director of Purchasing and Distribution.  Jason is the buyer and has oversight of the Distribution Center operations.  He began his career with HobbyTown as a Franchise Business Advisor in 1997.  Jason is an obstacle course racer and martial arts instructor.
  • AJ Mallory
    Director of Marketing

    AJ Mallory

    Director of Marketing
    AJ Mallory joined the HobbyTown Team in 2014 and now leads the Marketing Team as the Director of Marketing. In this role, he oversees the service and support for the stores should any Marketing questions or requests come up. In addition, he acts as the primary point of contact and project manager between HobbyTown and our third party ad agency, Initiate-It. His favorite hobby is gaming both video and board.
  • Sue Ferguson
    Director of Franchise Accounting

    Sue Ferguson

    Director of Franchise Accounting
    Sue Ferguson has been with HobbyTown since 2010, starting as an Accounts Payable Specialist, then moving to her current position in 2016.  She works with the internal Accounting Team to provide weekly check writing and monthly financials to HobbyTown stores.  Also works with the owners and the FBA’s to analyze financial information for better store operations and profitability.  Sue is also a member of the Convention Team.  Outside of work she enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends, hopefully in a warm location!  Sue’s favorite hobbies are board games and puzzles.
  • Bob Dill
    Director of Franchise Services

    Bob Dill

    Director of Franchise Services
    Bob Dill is the Director of Franchise Services. Bob supervises Franchise Business Advisors and oversees New Store Owner Training program. He began his career with HobbyTown as a Franchise Business Advisor in August 2007. Bob is a certified Silver level bowling instructor and currently coaches a local high school bowling team. His favorite hobby is woodworking and model building.
  • Dave Nolte
    Director of Software Development

    Dave Nolte

    Director of Software Development
    Dave has been a HobbyTown customer since 1974 and began working in the Lincoln HobbyTown store in 1994. He then moved from the store to the corporate office and became Director of Software Development in 1995. Dave enjoys golf, his dogs, and his favorite hobby is regular board gaming.
  • Jon Asbach
    Director of Information Systems

    Jon Asbach

    Director of Information Systems
    Joined the HobbyTown Team in 2011 and is currently in charge of the Information Technology Service & Support Teams, including network support, retail computer systems, and overall software integration with the Franchise and Home Office network. Jon is a U.S. Army Veteran, having served as a 25B Information Technology Specialist with the 134th Cavalry Regiment (Afghanistan 2010–2011). Jon focuses on a fostering a culture of constant improvement and monitoring performance to prove out successful strategies. For fun, Jon likes building computers, custom home theatre & car audio, and tinkering with internet-of-things automation. Jon’s favorite hobbies are reading (Sci-Fi and Non-Fiction) & PC Gaming.
  • Mark Moore
    Director of Franchise Sales

    Mark Moore

    Director of Franchise Sales
    Mark Moore has served as Franchise Sales Director since August 2012. He started with HobbyTown Corporate in the Operations Department from September 2001. He also works on the annual HobbyTown National Convention, the largest hobby expo in the country. He spends his free time working with high school students through the TeamMates mentoring program. Mark’s favorite hobby is getting better at anything RC and puzzles.
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