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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 debate over New York State Common Core standards continues, with students from the Mineola School District showing a mild resistance to the exams.

 

According to the New York State Allies for Public Education, Mineola had some of the lowest numbers, with eight students opting out of the English Language Arts test. However, not a single Mineola student missed the math test. In East Williston, the opt out rates were 75 students in ELA and 60 in math.

Gitangalie Palombo, an Elmont yoga instructor, will open Fly High Dance and Fitness on the second floor at 111 E. Jericho Tpke. after her plan was approved by the Mineola Village

Board last week. She expects to open by January 2015. Sherwin Williams occupies the main floor.

 

“We want to be a great addition to the community,” she said. “I hope Fly High brings a new flare to the area.”


Sports

The New York Cosmos hosted the Mineola Athletic Association’s Soccer Club recently for its penultimate fall 2014 home game. More than 140 members of the MAA soccer club and their families came out on a chilly October evening to show their love of the game. Twenty-two Mineola boys and girls had the honor of escorting the New York Cosmos and Ottawa Fury players onto the field in the traditional “Walk of Champions.”

 

The Mineola spirit must have inspired the home team, as spectators enjoyed the exciting 2-1 Cosmos victory, with the game-winning goal coming in stoppage time.


As a current member of the Mineola High School Varsity Soccer team, senior, Catherine Cunningham has been dominating the scoring for the Mustangs.  She has 12 goals and two assists in the last seven games. 

 

In her last week of play alone, she amassed six goals in just three games. As a captain for the last two years, Cunningham has been an All-Conference and All-Class player, leading her team to two victories so far this season. 


Calendar

Exercise Class - October 22

International Night - October 23

Village Halloween Party - October 24


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com