I live in the midwest and have experienced a loss of local hobby shops. I love walking through brick and mortar hobby stores. One of my favorite hobby shops in the St. Louis area is Mark Twain Hobby located in historic Saint Charles, just west of St. Louis. They opened in 1976 and have a huge inventory to meet just about any hobbyist needs. Any time I am going through the area I stop in and even though I have been around this industry a long time, I am still like a kid in a candy shop. When there I am always greeted by one of the 31 employees willing to help me find what I need and with high degrees of knowledge on cars, planes, boats, trains and anything else you want to know.
I would say without question Mark Twain Hobby is diverse in its offerings. They feature of course radio control planes, cars, boats, and helicopters and every possible supportive element you would ever need, but they also offer a huge selection of plastic cars, ships, planes, sci fi and armor. Trains are another specialty with N, HO and O gauges and they have a great train display in the store. To round out their inventory, the great folks at Mark Twain also carry books, magazines, rockets, kites, science kits, slot cars in both 1/43 and 1/32, pine cars and Airsoft equipment.
I had a chance to ask Darren Vancour a few questions about his business. When asked about changes in the industry Darren responded,
Two really big changes in the industry are: Predominance of Ready to Run/ already built vehicles (car’s, boats, planes) whether RC or static. Even RR buildings are coming pre built. The second big change is mail order companies taking large chunks of business away from brick and mortar stores forcing many smaller shops to close.
On being competitive,
Our ability to keep the store fresh with constantly changing product, and helpful, friendly staff.
And with regard to the demise of Mom and Pop hobby stores,
Increasingly mom and pop shops are losing out to on line shops selling at low margins, with less over head, and better product mix. The lack of sales tax charged on mail order is a huge factor: who wants to pay sales tax on a $1000 worth of merchandise, when you can mail order it and have it in a couple of days. Our customers are more tech savvy, using their phones they know immediately what the best price is. They will wait a few days to save $20. The problem is, we are the first place they bring their mail ordered item to when it doesn’t work.
If you are ever in the St. Louis area and want to spend an hour or two just browsing in a great hobby shop take the time to explore Mark Twain Hobby and support your local hobby shop at:
2793 West Clay Street
Saint Charles MO 63301