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Choo Choo, Vrroom At Willis Hobbies

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.


News

The Mineola School Board will hold a public hearing on the much-debated New York State veterans exemption on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Willis Avenue School. It is expected the board will either approve or disapprove the tax exemption during its regular meeting at 7 p.m.

When votes go to the polls next week on Tuesday, Nov. 4 to vote on the Town of North Hempstead’s 2nd Council District seat, candidate Bonnie Parente feels her stance on the building department is what voters will remember when casting their choice. The 2nd council district post is currently held by Peter Zuckerman, a former East Hills trustee. He was appointed to the seat in January to replace Thomas Dwyer, who resigned last year.

 

“That’s the major issue I heard about when I knocked on doors,” she said. “No matter where I am, I could be at the Herricks Community Center or the Albertson Pasta Dinner and

predominately what people ask about is how to fix the building department.”


Sports

Samantha Pastore

Samantha Pastore, senior and third-year varsity player, is also co-captain of the currently undefeated (11-0) Mineola Girls Varsity Volleyball team. She is an outside hitter and is often recognized in games by starting rallies with her quick thinking and nimble feet. She earns 20 percent of the team’s points and averages four aces per match.

The Mineola Mustangs varsity football team fell to the Seaford Vikings last week 27-21, missing their chance to tie the top seeds Locust Valley and Roosevelt’s 6-1 Nassau conference IV record.

 

After tying the game in the second half and having the opportunity to capitalize on Seaford’s failed extra-point kick on their final touchdown, the Viking’s senior wide receiver/defensive back Bobby Buell knocked away a pass from Mineola senior quarterback James Gerstner to senior wide receiver Brian Smith in the end-zone with 57 seconds left


Calendar

International Night - October 30

Halloween Parade - October 31

Cultural Arts Series - November 1 


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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