R.I.P. The Old Don's Hobbies of Greeley Colorado

Well, after almost two months of being too busy to get to Greeley, I finally got to see the new completed "vision" of Don's Hobbies by the new owner. It is
big, it is flashy, and as sterile as a Kmart with even less of the humanity. I could not tell it apart from my local Hobby Town USA. So this is the vision of an Ex grocery store manager's with no real hobby experience of what a Hobby Shop should be. Over priced ARF's on isle nine and no knowledge kid running register two. Rest In Piece Old Don's for you were a true hobby shop with employees that gave a damn about the hobbies and the people that came into the shop. The people that made a difference are mostly gone and the grocery clerks have arrived. I remember on Saturdays, at old Don's, I had to wedge through the packed store to get to the R/C stuff, today I saw only a handful of folks and most were looking around and walking out the door without buying. I ran into a fellow at the magazine shop around the corner from Don's that I recognized from running into him at Don's over the years. He was buying a copy of M.A.N. I said hi and we talked for a few minutes. I asked him his opinion of the new Don's. He said he no longer really shopped there since it had lost its soul. I think he summed up my feelings as well in that one sentence. I hate to say it but today I came home and ordered my first ever Tower Hobbies Catalog. When there is no real service or soul left at a hobby shop then they are competing just at the product level and in that case I might as well go with the cheapest source. No reason to drive to Greeley for glue and quick need basics when I can pick them up at the local sterile Hobby Town USA in Fort Collins. A big thanks to the all the old staff at Don's for without them I would have never got back into the hobby and I will always remember them. They ran a wonderful old time hobby shop and I will always cherish the memories of my time shopping and BSing there.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565
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Did the old owner retire or pass away?
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The original Don retired and sold it to Tony. Tony was running it when I started going to Don's. Tony sold out to the latest owner that is named Don and is no relation to the original owner.
I spoke with some of the old staff the weekend before the new Don took over. Most I spoke to indicated that they were leaving because they did not care for the new management or his vision of the new Don's. I decided to hold judgment on the new Don's until I met the new owner and see what changes were made. Tony pretty much had a family of employees and depended on them to take care of their parts of the shop and to know their customers and what they wanted. It was a small, but fair stocked shop with great folks running it. New Don's vision was to create a "mega store" with his family as the top dogs and the employees pretty much the little cashiers & clerks to boss around. His supermarket manager skills applied to the hobby industry with no real experience in any of the hobby products he is selling or an understanding of the customer base. He has successfully created the sterile super market feel by the new lay out and the new employees, but does not have the mega store stock & selection or common sense to understand that hobbyist are a different breed than those looking for a loaf of bread and jug of milk on the way home to make dinner. Hobbyists have resources through the internet and catalogs that can not be competed with on a just product and price level. When I went to the old Don's I was buying from friends from the first day I walked through the door. People that cared about me and wanted to make my hobby experience enjoyable. The new Don's is about as warm as the grocery store where the cashier gives me a half fake smile and looks at my name on the check and says thank you "Robert" as if she knows me. Today, I asked one of the new Don's drones about what happened to all the kits in the R/C section since the selection had greatly declined. I was told ARF's were the wave of the future and I should be buying one. This is the kind of sales drone that drove me away from my local Hobby Town USA and to the old Don's. Oh to be fair at the end when the "no sale" light came on in his eyes he did offer to order a kit for me. But if I have to order my "ancient outdated kits" why should I pay more to do it from Don's "Mega Sterile Store" when I can order the kit from Tower or Hobby People, etc for less? Clearly the friendly service is no longer there to make the difference.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565
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MOST HobbyTowns are the way they are because they are run by business-oriented persons, not hobby-oriented persons.
The owner of my local HT flew some RC previously, but now goes GOLFING instead! He has not flown anything beyond an Aerobird or Firebird lately.
David
On 08 Feb 2004 00:46:48 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (BobAndVickey) wrote:

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That is the real irony of the situation. I spoke with the new Don, when he first took the place over and he assured me that he was not going to turn it into a Hobby Town clone. In the end he has done just that without joining the Hobby Town chain. Since the local Hobby Town here has been in business for a long time, I have to assume there must be a group of consumers that like being served by mostly ignorant college kids with marching orders to sell, sell, sell! Granted I buy building materials and the occasional kit or radio on sale from HT, but I will never again ask for advice or opinion from the sales drones. In fact the funny thing is that the local HT in Fort Collins has a better selection than the new Don's, so if they are both equal in service now, why should the FC crowd drive to the next town? In fact I have seen a few of the Greeley guys in the FC HT that I know were almost exclusive customers to Don's, so migration in the other direction may have already started. Back in the late 80's when I worked in a local Hobby Shop, when Tower Hobbies was just a catalog and a 1-800 number, the Internet was an infant and web stores were mostly a dream in a nerds fantasies, the response to the question of why buy from the local hobby shop was the great support, advice and service the customer got for the small difference in price plus supporting a local business. We also backed those words with deeds, like the old Don's. Now that things are even more competitive with Web Shops, I wonder what the HT and their clones are telling people, when their shops have nothing extra to offer except Kmart service, being close by and being a local business. I would not care to even bluff with those cards in my hand.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565

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I feel your pain... the LHS's in my area all have the atitude that (being a fly guy and not a car guy) I wish that a HT or sorts would come into town with better prices and better inventory Just to make the pompus LHS'S stand up and take notice..."we can order it" yes i know that so can i!!! i hear that some shop's even have classes and" how to" workshops to help newbies ARF their planes in to the air!! and instructors..... lockers for your plane when you don't build... set time when they all get together!! so the next class will get in!! now thats service!! perhaps one day.... I am enjoying your post...... if i wanna talk about politics i'll go elseware..... because i enjoy that too but not here. gig On 09 Feb 2004 04:27:23 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (BobAndVickey) wrote:

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A HobbyTown with better prices and better inventory ????????
ROTFLMAO ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
David

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I have been to Hobby Town USA, I have been to several of the Hobby People locations. While they are closer than my LHS, Robin's Hobby, I wouldn't trade Robin's for em ever. I go to the chain stores if I need CA like right now or maybe a prop or somesuch in a hurry and I do hit Hobby People to get fuel when its on sale, but I always buy my kits and ARFs from Robin. And balsa, epoxy, screws, switches, clevises (clevi?), covering and so forth. Any kit or ARF I want, he will order for me, its at a good price, and I usually have it in my hot little hands within the week. It's pretty nice to be greeted by name instead of "dude" also. Another thing you will rarely find at the chain stores: knowledge! At least about building with balsa. All kinds of help for bolting bits on plastic cars. Naw, I will continue to support Robin's Hobby forever. There is just no comparison.
--
Dan
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I thought as much... I just hate that most of the LHS'S round here never have anything in stock"i can order it" well news flash so can i! yes knowledge can go a long way and often does but the shops being so pompus because if you don't want a 4 wheeled vehicle you don't matter and the stock on the shelves prove that.. and on the otherhand i guess i can't blame them either the market dictates wnat happans i guess blowing off some steam ... On Tue, 10 Feb 2004 03:20:47 GMT, "Fubar of The HillPeople"

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I can understand the steam release. Actually, I usually can save money by having my LHS order me something. One good thing is that the owner and his father, Robin Sr., are both RC flyers. He has some younger guys that mostly deal with the cars. I know that whatever money I save by buying there he more than makes up with the car nuts. I think that is one reason you will always see guys behind the car counter but not behind the plane counter. The RC car guys, at least at Robin's, break their cars then throw money on the counter and say fix it. Oh, gotta have the latest titanium splabitz flange. Here is more money, put it on for me. The plane guys generally do their own repairs.
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Dan
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Dan, I envy you. Robin's sound like the old Don's. Don't take it for granted and I hope if it ever gets sold it falls into the hands of someone like the person that owns it now. Nothing is more sicking than to see the best little hobby shop in the area being assimilated by the sales drones. In my area the little hobbist guy shops have become an extinct species. I am just glad that I grew up, worked in , and got one last chance to experiance the true local hobby shops before they are all gone. TheI guys that will never get a chance to know one, will really never know what they missed. An experiance that makes the differnce between the prices from the shop compared to a mail order catalog really seem small.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565

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Oh, believe me, I give Robin all the support I can. He recently had a pretty bad fire which gutted the place but is now open again. We were really worried there for a while! Nobody was hurt, thank god. I almost never walk out without spending at least $10. Usually more!
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Dan
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Ok, Dave give the poor guy a break. :-) He does not have an HT, so he does not understand how bad an insult it is to say anyone has prices equal or worse and less inventory than a HT. I clarified it in my reply to him.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565

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Sorry, about the second posting. Keys hit the wrong fingers :-)
BR
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Since you don't have a Hobby Town allow me to clarify. I have yet to go into a Hobby Town USA and be impressed by their selection, prices or service, so saying that the New Don's has an even worse selection and equal pricing is a real low blow. As to being treated poorly by the LHS that focus on R/C cars, well that is the focus of my local HT also. HT looks for the money and even in the era of the ARF only a handful learn to fly and stay in flying compared to just about every nimrod can drive an R/C car no matter how low the IQ. As to learning to build and fly, when I worked in a hobby shop, I spent many hours on the front counter helping customers with building, inspecting and repairing their trainers, IMHO any good hobby shop has the people to assist the first time builder and provides the service. They also must have the best interest of the customer at heart. I lost many new wing kit sales by showing a novice with a broken wing that he could repair it with some balsa stock, CA, and the left over monocote for the fraction of the price of a new wing kit and a new roll of covering. We lost many one shot sales by providing real service, but also gained a customer base that wanted to buy from us just to get the support & service. That was my attraction to the old Don's was that it had the kind of people and service like the hobby shop I use to work for. It was wonderful to go to a place where the guy behind the counter really listened to my needs and offered solutions based on what he thought would be best for me. I will miss it greatly.
Bob Ruth AMA 720565

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So, let me ask this... as a potential new store owner, with a great desire to be the next generation's "Old Don's"...
Is it possible in today's e-world to make it providing the above mentioned service and store?
My heart tells me that I can not only make it, but thrive if I emulate the store you all have been discussing in this thread.
Any thoughs you'd care to share?
Darren Emery
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Darren, The answere is yes. The Hobby Shop that I grew up with and worked in The Hobby Hut in Grand Junction, last I heard was still doing well. It is run by the late great Pete Nelson's son Chris, who has carried on the great service tradition.
Old Don's under Tony who sold it to the new owner was doing ok, He just decided that he had other things he wanted to do and it was not his only source of income.
The Hobby Town's and their clones are making money despite giving poor and sterile service. The HT in my town has been in business for years.
If you have what it takes to run a business, it just boils down to the type of person you are and the type of shop you want to run and how much you need out of it.
Most the good old shops I have known were run by someone that likes people, enjoys the hobbies and wants to help their customers. Almost all belonged to someone that was retired or had other forms of income to live off of.
However I have seen large shops in major cities that provide the small shop service. The key is that they have that have someone in charge that is a little shop owner at heart and hires people that feel the same way. Tony was a great example. The old Don's had puzzels, plastic kits, games, trains R/C and much more. Tony was not an expert in all of it, but he knew how to hire people that did have the know how, cared about the customers and loved what they did. Their departments were their's and they were proud of them. The new Don's is in the same building, started with the same stock, but is filled with sales drones that collect a check and punch the clock. They "work" in the R/C department and have about as much real connection to it as the stock boy that works in aisle nine at the super market. Still the New Don's will probably do fine as the old customers like me move on and the new Wal-Mart generation takes over assuming being treated that way is a norm.
As I stated earlier, assuming you have the business sense, it just boils down to what kind of shop you want to have.
Bob Ruth

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