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HobbyTown moves to Shoppes at Fieldstone in Dover

DOVER — As a 12-year-old with parents going through a divorce, Richard Lemley has fond memories of the enjoyable distraction hobbies like RC (radio-controlled) cars and planes offered.

“Divorce can be hard on kids so it was nice to have something fun to do,” he said. “I remember that in my middle school in New York they had a unique elective class that focused on flight training — it was actually right around when the Challenger exploded in 1986. As part of the class, we were building control line airplanes and I really took a liking to that. We were supposed to build one over the course of three months, but I worked on mine at home and came back with it done in two days. Then I started helping the other kids in the class and sort of became the teacher’s protégé. I had a ball with it.”

Branching into RC cars and rocketry in addition to planes, the hobby kept his attention into his 20s. But before long, other priorities edged the pastime out.

“I ended up getting busier with family and work — I was a car salesman for about 20 years — and I sort of just shied away from the RC stuff,” he said.

However, three years ago, a little extra time set the stage for a big resurgence.

“I was at the point where all I did was work, so I decided to have a little fun again with RC cars,” said Mr. Lemley. “We’d travel up to the shop down in Seaford or in Wilmington, and eventually I realized that it’d be really cool to have a hobby shop like this in Kent County.”

After running a small hobby store/race track in Camden, he moved his operation to Dover Mall for a year. There, he adopted the HobbyTown — a retail hobby, collectibles and toy store chain — brand.

However, as of early September, he moved his Hobbytown location to 96 Salt Creek Drive in the Shoppes at Fieldstone shopping center in Dover.

The store is almost double the square footage as his last location and allows him to carry a larger inventory.

The location stocks popular brands of RC cars, planes, boats, drones helicopters, trains and even nitro cars. Mr. Lemley also sells parts — both factory and after market — upgrades, battery options, tires, fuels, tools and paint. He notes that his selection will appeal to devoted hobbyist and newcomer alike.

He also stocks more typical hobby store fare such as models, slots cars, science kits, telescopes, board games, puzzles and other assorted “knick knacks.”

While a lot of his customers tend to be people with a similar hobby background to him — recapturing childhood memories — Mr. Lemley is especially pleased to see younger customers exploring the pastime. “It’s great to see a younger kid come in who’s excited about RC stuff,” he said. “This isn’t like walking into Walmart toy section, in here there’s a cool factor. We have RC cars that can hit 100 mph out of the box and airplanes that go 140 mph. An average person, with some basic training and knowledge can do it and have a great time. But we have great entry-level stuff too. An 8-year-old can have a great time learning on one of our smaller RC cars that only go about 20 mph. Before you know it, parents are buying one for themselves and it becomes a family activity.”

He hopes that the store and its offerings will inspire the next generation of local hobbyists.

“Honestly, for me, it all started with that teacher taking the initiative to start that flight class and teach me about these things,” Mr. Lemley said. “If it wasn’t for that, this store wouldn’t exist.”

To follow developments, visit the store on Facebook by searching @HobbyTownDover or call 302-538-7569. The store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Top Franchise For Veterans

HobbyTown has again made the list of one of the Top Franchises for Veterans. The October issue of Entrepreneur magazine will feature the new rankings. This is one of the hottest topics in the franchising and HobbyTown is ranked #32!

HobbyTown operated like a local business

It can be difficult to find a store that’s part of a national chain, but also has a local flavor. But the owner of Norman’s HobbyTown USA wants his shop at 2236 W. Main St to have a local feel. Two local residents — owner Gary Cahill and his son, Tanner — run it. They’re the only full-time employees. “I basically dragged him out of bed and made him come to work with me,” Gary Cahill jokes. Tanner Cahill laughs. “I’ve been here every since,” he said.

Anyone walking into the store will likely be greeted by both Cahills. The checkout counter offers guests small gifts such as putty and candy. To the right of the checkout counter are rows and rows of shelves filled with everything from board games to remote-control cars to model airplanes. Gary Cahill has owned the Norman store for 13 years. He bought the store after the former owner put it up for sale. “I was also looking for a way out of my old job, and I’ve been an inventory control person for so many years, different jobs, and I thought I could look into that.” Together, the father and son have been at HobbyTown ever since, working to sell the things like remote-control cars, model airplanes, trains, drones, toys and more.

But Cahill said the business has struggled to attract customers in recent years. “We had four years running where were down in sales every month,” Cahill said. “Some of those months were very painful months.” Cahill said the main cause for the slide was the economic instability of his main customer base — oil-field workers.  “As the market kept dropping, and they kept laying off or shutting hours off, our big spenders kind of quit,” he said. “We are the last stop of discretionary cash. You have to eat and you have to pay bills. (Entertainment) is the last dollars people get to spend. It got tight. Everybody is unsure of what they’re going to do, and we feel the pinch first.”

Fortunately, the business started recovering at the end of 2018, in part due to the recent merger between HobbyTown and RadioShack, he said. After the two companies merged, Cahill opened a “RadioShack Express” around Thanksgiving 2018. He said that has played a role in the store’s increased sales. “It’s not big dollars per item, but it fills a very-needed niche, especially in college towns with all the projects that the engineering classes have to do,” Cahill said. “People have been really excited that the RadioShack products are back.” He said they’re continuing to increase their orders from RadioShack. “We’ve realized that some people just won’t order online, especially with this stuff,” he said. “You want to look at it see if it will fit whatever project you are working on. This stuff is definitely more for hands-on projects.” With recent companies like Hastings Entertainment and Toys ‘R’ Us closing down, HobbyTown is one of the few stores left to fill the void, he said.

“Everyone knows HobbyTown sells (remote-control) cars and planes and stuff, but it’s the other stuff that we as store owners would like to get out,” Cahill said. “We may not carry everything Toys ‘R’ Us used to carry, but we have a lot of things like rocketry and (science, technology, engineering and math) learning kits and things like that.”

Congratulations and Thank You

HobbyTown is sending a big Thank-You to our retiring store owner in Sanford, FL. Jim Howerton has been a HobbyTown store owner since 1990 and is stepping down. The existing owners of HobbyTown in Fayetteville, NC have purchased the store from Jim. So, Congratulations to Greg and Sharon Steiner on their second HobbyTown Franchise.

Congratulations on the Grand Opening in the San Diego market

HobbyTown is pleased to announce the opening of another new store. The store is located in Plaza De Cuyamaca which is at 9747 Mission Gorge Rd in Santee, CA. We want to welcome and congratulate Mark Focareta on his new store. The Grand Opening is scheduled for March 2 & 3. We are very proud to have him join the HobbyTown family. This store has embraced the HobbyTown 2020 Vision and has a wide variety of product: from hobby, RC, gaming, board games, STEM, toys and more. Next time you are in San Diego, come and check out our newest store.