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, 20 September 2014 00:00
Senator Jack Martins discussed education, business and drug use among other topics in a an exclusive interview with this newspaper and FiOS 1 News. He’s currently seeking re-election in November, being challenged by Democrat Adam Haber. Pointing to what he called “key legislation,” particularly the tax cap legislation passed in 2011 and prescription drug bill he helped shepherd to enactment, Martins feels New York State is on track to continue fiscal responsibility.
“In these last four years, we’ve had four balanced budgets, we’ve cut taxes working together, we have paid off debt, streamlined government, kept spending below 2 percent each one of those years,” Martins said.
Friday, 19 September 2014 00:00
A contingent of 80 Mineola runners embarked on their first trek to lower Manhattan last year for the Tunnel To Towers 5K Run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toward the World Trade Center site. This year, the United Mavericks, a networking group of local business people that support local charities and causes, are gearing up surpass that number.
Mavericks reps say they’re half way to gathering 1,000 people to run in the event’s 13th year on Saturday, Sept. 28.
The run honors a fireman Stephen Siller, who was enjoying a day off planning to play golf before he learned the Twin Towers were hit by two airplanes during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He was one of the 343 firefighters who died when the towers collapsed.
Thursday, 18 September 2014 00:00
Though it had already hosted the series of lacrosse games during the regular season this past spring, Chaminade High School’s new Gold Star Stadium was officially christened on Saturday, Sept. 6, named in honor of the 56 alumni who had perished during combat.
“Tradition holds that when one dies in the service a gold star is given to the family,” said Chaminade President Bro. Thomas Cleary. “Our 56 Gold Star Alumni are honored for their selflessness, courage, and integrity.”
Thursday, 11 September 2014 00:00
Although the expectations for the 2014 Mineola Mustangs boy’s varsity soccer season may be somewhat measured, the team enters the season with the goal of a berth in the Nassau County playoffs. The team is young and inexperienced but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There is considerable talent on the horizon. There are only four starting seniors and five sophomores on the roster. Four year starting senior forward Daniel Pardo returns (19 goals in three seasons) as does senior standout goalkeeper Andrew Pereira.