Written by Rich Forestano Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00
The brown awning that drapes over 300 Willis Ave. has been a staple in the community for more than six decades. For Willis Hobbies’ owner Steve Ford, it’s about tradition.
“All of us that work here know the industry,” he said. “We know the lingo, we use the items ourselves and that helps service. You won’t get the personal nature on the Internet.”
Ford’s dad, Alfred, bought the business in 1970, but the area had always had a hobby shop, dating back to 1949 when it was located next to Foresto’s Men Shop across the street, before moving in 1998. Steve worked stocking shelves part-time while he was in high school, before taking over the shop in 1988, when his father retired.
“Being here as long as we have, you get to know your customers,” said Ford. “I have customers that come here today, where their father brought them in when they were kids and are now bringing their kids in.”
In the age of iPads, smartphones and tablets, hobby shops are a rarity and struggle to survive. For Ford, the biggest challenge is finding the middle ground to keep kids interested. Remote-controlled cars as well as slot cars (Willis has an eight-lane, 30-foot long track in its basement and a full-scale party room complete with a Lionel train set) keep children coming back for more.
“The RC end of the business leans a little more towards kids,” he said. “You’re working a unit, using a handheld device to operate your helicopter or a car. That end of the business goes to the 15-30 age group and model rockets.”
Rockets are attention grabbers for kids at Willis. The store works with 25 local school districts, including Westbury, Manhasset, Syosset, Garden City, Port Washington, for summer science programs, as well as colleges like CW Post and Hofstra University.
“They’re all summer programs for students,” Ford said.
The model department at Willis features replica cars, airplanes, tanks, boats, among other items. Ford feels that this area, along with model trains, is geared towards adults.
“There are some kids involved in models, but it’s primarily an adult thing,” he said. “The older crowd loves nostalgia, whether it’s building a car they once had or a ship they were on during the war. The model train group is a much older crowd. They’re in their 40s and up.”
Model trains are one of the treasures that defines America, according to Ford. Willis is stocked with train sets, ranging from turn-of-the-century replicas to modern train cars.
Collectors go crazy for the different types of trains, Ford says. Willis carries five different scales of trains, with each one having different types.
Each scale holds a letter designation, with the smallest being the “Z” scale and increasing to N, HO, O and G scales. Companies like Lionel, Atlas, Kline, Weaver are “O” scaled, while Lehmann, USA, Aristo, Pola, Piko are “G” scaled.
His top seller? The Lionel train sets.
“Lionel Trains has been around for 114 years,” he said. “There is still a core of collectors and whatnot for trains. During holiday times, everyone wants a Lionel train around their Christmas tree.”
Willis Hobbies is located at 300 Willis Ave. in Mineola. For more information, call 516-746-3944.
Saturday, 27 September 2014 00:00
As I tried to make my way through the unforgiving monsoon season, rain pouring as far as the eye could see, dodging puddles I rushed inside the school building. The guard yelled in the background for the children to come in quickly before they dragged in even more mud inside. Trying hard not to slip on the wet dirty floor, I pondered to myself what
exactly I was doing here. The words of Mahatma Gandhi resonated inside my head, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Here I was at a school in Mumbai India, 7800 miles from my home in Mineola, volunteering with “Aseema,” a non-governmental organization whose mission is to empower and educate the under privileged children. Children living on the streets or in slums and in inhuman conditions.
Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00
East Williston resident Brian Advocate-Ross addressed the Village of East Williston Board of Trustees earlier this month about an alleged drug problem at 386 Roslyn Rd. Advocate-Ross lives next to the house, and alleged to the village that there is “abundant drug use going on there—they’ve got people coming and going all day long, parking all over the place, and I have a little museum of drug paraphernalia that they throw over the fence.”
Advocate-Ross, who said a school two blocks away from the house, is primarily concerned about the safety of his four young children, and said he has called the police at the Third Precinct numerous times and expressed disappointment.
“I’m tired of calling them, they do nothing,” Advocate-Ross said. “My 6-year-old is finding what they throw over the fence and bringing them to me. I’m not going to tolerate it.”
The Third Precinct declined to comment.
Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00
The Mineola Mustangs varsity football team defeated the Roosevelt Roughriders 47-38 on Saturday, Sept. 20.
Senior quarterback James Gerstner led the Mustangs (2-0) to victory by rushing 212 yards and securing five touchdowns on 23 carries. He also completed 11 of 13 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown.
“This was a big game—we were ready and pumped up all week,” Gerstner said. “We came in ranked third but we knew we could beat them.”
Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00
The Mineola Varsity Football team’s defense dominated Valley Stream South, winning 21-0 on Sept. 13. The Falcons never got further then Mineola’s 30 yard line. The defense was lead by senior linebackers Eric Guardado (8 tackles 6 assist), Ed Hincapie (6 tackles, 5 assist) and safety John Clancy (tackles, 3 assist).
Defensive linemen Anthony Sarno, Luigi Athan, Victor Tineo, Matt Lafaye and Chris Brenes controlled the line of scrimmage. Defensive backs Peter McCormack and Chris Lockwood played very well as they combined for eight tackles and only allowed two pass completions. Linebacker Kyle Dunleavy, Ben Carbone, Matt Kosowski and Brian Smith also played very well.