A world of model planes, trains and automobiles, as well as numerous games and other items, soon will be leaving Cumming.
Hobby Town USA, which has been one of Forsyth County’s few hobby shops for the past decade, is in the midst of a going-out-of-business sale.
Owner Steve Emerson, a hobbyist since he started flying model airplanes at age 10, said the business is a victim of growing online consumerism.
“Things have changed,” he said Tuesday among the few items that remain on the shelves of the store at 911 Market Place Blvd. “People are using this store as a showroom.
“They come in and look at things and then go home and buy it for five bucks cheaper on the Internet, so I can’t stay in business any longer.”
Emerson said he decided to open the store in 2004 after his then-job with an insurance agency wanted him to move out of state.
“I took early retirement and actually I was trying to fix some airplanes I have because I like to fly them when I realized there was no [hobby shop] around here,” he said. “I thought well maybe that’s on opportunity to open up my own shop, so I did.”
He said business was good the first few years. However, like so many other merchants, things changed a few years ago during the recession.
“I was one of the most successful Hobby Towns in the country until the economy tanked,” Emerson said.
Just before the recession, Emerson relocated the business from its original site in Lakeland Plaza to a bigger location in Cumming Town Center.
“We outgrew the first place,” he said. “We moved and didn’t know the recession had started … so our rent went up and our sales started dropping off like a rock.”
Three years ago, he moved into the current site to try to stay afloat. Emerson noted that the recession wasn’t the only the factor in the decline. The brick-and-mortar hobby business in general seems to be fading away.
“When I opened this business, there was just one competing Internet choice that customers had … and [that business] didn’t charge extremely low prices, so you could still compete with them.
“But now anybody who’s got a computer and a little extra space in the basement can sell things out of there and do it with no overhead.”
Emerson said there is no set final day of business for Hobby Town. Rather, he and his employees will remain until all merchandise is sold.
“When it’s gone, we’re going to close the door and walk away,” he said.
During that time, customers can take advantage of greatly reduced prices on anything they might need for their hobbies.
The store offers everything from model kits, model train parts, paints, wood-working materials, gaming supplies and science kits for children.
Customer Ken Scher took advantage of the sale on Tuesday. As a model train hobbyist, Scher said he is disappointed to see the store close.
“It’s unfortunate because it is an excellent store if you need specific stuff,” he said. “Like I’ve come in and bought pieces for train parts before. So if you need those parts, you’re not going to be able to find them anymore because none of the other hobby stores carry the parts.”
Emerson is also sad to see the store go, but he said he’ll take advantage of retirement.
“I turn 69 years old and I don’t know that I want to work anymore,” he said.