Acrylics and enamels -- favorites? Shop gripes?

Hi all --
I'm buying our local hobby shop (Wings & Wheels, Clinton, CT) from a friend who's retiring, and I'd like some recommendations on paints.
We've long carried the full Testors ModelMaster line, but have had several complaints, especially about the acrylics. With the change of ownership (and a pretty low paint inventory at the moment!), it seems a good time to start carrying paints that people like. So I'm asking rms for recommendations regarding paint for all areas of modeling -- air, cars, armor, figures, ships, railroading, structures, the whole megillah. You're the folks who use paints extensively (I mostly build cars); I'd appreciate your input.
Also, a question I've always wanted to ask a large and varied modeling group: what are your main gripes about retail bricks-and-mortar hobby shops? For that matter, what are your *favorite* things about local shops? I want the shop to reflect customers' needs, not my personal biases.
I'd appreciate ANY input, from euphorically delighted to murderously disgusted...
Thanks
Bart Brown Wings & Wheels Hobby
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Hi, Here is one thing I love about our local hobby shop (Hamilton, Ont.) - Events. Our local shop has seasonal events with NASCAR/CASCAR cars and drivers, as well as seasonal sales (just had one this weekend, it was great.) It's great to come out and be able go around the cars and take in depth pictures for modeling. That's a big plus.
A great thing to see would be sales on items of historical significance on those dates. ex. 1/2 off Wright flyer models on Dec. 17 (day of first flight) or 1/2 off Ryan NYP "Spirit of St. Louis" on May 21 [ (first flight across the big pond :) ]
That would be a really great thing to have. Might be something to consider once you've got the shop sorted out and it would draw in more people.
Cheers :) -Colin.

biases.
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1) Colpar Hobbies in Denver supports the IPMS by giving a 15% discount on merchandise when you present your IPMS membership card. Colpar also supports the local IPMS chapters through merchandise donations and providing an "IPMS table" at its major sales.
2) The "bargain bin" is also a good idea!
Martin
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I have personally dropped use of acrylics, and am concentrating on enamels now. Acrylics dry too fast.
First, it was problems with airbrushes- if I didn't clean IMMEDIATELY after use, it dried and was VERY hard to clean.
Lately, when using acrylics to brush with, I've gotten some on fingers. If I clean it off IMMEDIATELY, it cleans fine, but if I wait just a few minutes before cleaning up, it is MISERABLE to get off my fingers :-( I'll stick with enamels now.
Barton Brown wrote:

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Don Stauffer in Minnesota
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I use only acrylics now...easier on my lungs(and the environment) and much easier to clean up. My favorites are tamiya and model master,although I actually think polly colors are more closely matched,I find they can be lumpy and dry unevenly. I avoid vallejo.Doesn't brush well(for me),the gloss clear never dries and the flat coat gets odd marks in it,leaving a stained look on the surface. Maybe you could even stock Future so we dont have to make a side trip to the grocery store! As far as pros and cons of hobby shops...I like to see the model before I buy,and sometimes find things I didn't know I wanted! The downside being the higher prices compared to online purchasing. Good luck in your new business!
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I use a small teflon pot scrubbing pad to clean my hands. Works fast and not harmful to your skin.
Dave
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Among acrylics, I use Polly Scale and Tamiya, and since I have the hang of them, I haven't done much with MM Acryl. The Testors enamels (including the Boyd's) I use infrequently, but I like them in non-military applications. For NMF aircraft, I like SNJ.
Gripes about Hobby Shops? Knowledgeable, pleasant owners and employees are too few in the trade, and the knowledge is tough to come by, since most hobby shops need to cater to a lot more than the scale modeling crowd. So maybe the most important thing is to hire people that actually have people skills, rather than settling for whatever marginally honest warm body walks through the door.
Mark Schynert
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Shop gripes:
1. Shops that charge more than MSRP for items.
2. Shops that say "they can't get an item". For example, there are two decent shops in my area, about 45 minutes from me in opposite directions. Both shops have a good selection of mainstream and limited production kits. But, one shop doesn't have any of the Roden kits, and when you ask, you're told they can't get them. (The other shop seems to have no problem stocking them!)
3. Narrow aisles with lots of stuff on bottom shelves. I'm unlikely to buy stuff if I can't clearly see what is stacked on the bottom shelf. I wish more shops would make the bottom shelf angled, so that the end panels of the model boxes are aimed at my face and not at my shins. (Add in the glare from the overhead lights, and it can be hard to see what's there.)
4. Staff that makes clue-less recommendations to novices. I can't tell you how many times I've overheard an employee, when "helping" an obvious novice (or spouse), talk about things like PE and resin and the like. That's fine when you're talking to me: my wife will have no idea what you're talking about. The good employees will quickly realize her experience level, and then explain to her clearly why two kits of the same plane are $30 different in price. (Without sounding like they are talking down to her.)
5. Employees with bad language. A number of times, I've been in a shop on a quiet weekday, where there may be 1 or 2 customers browsing. The two guys working are carrying on a conversation about whatever, using terms that you would never use in conversation with a customer, seemingly oblivious to the fact that anyone in the store can hear every word they are saying.
Things I like:
1. I use acrylics exclusively. In addition to the regular MM, Tamiya, and Pollscale, my favorite shop also carries the Pollyscale railroad colors. These colors come in bigger bottles, and are a better deal, which is a better way to buy basic colors, such as white, black, silver, light gray, etc. Quite a few of the RR colors are good matches for colors used on non-RR models.
2. Shops that have a "what's new" display area near the front door. Makes it easy to see which of the latest releases are in stock.
3. A good selection of aftermarket decals. I am much more likely to buy a set for a model if I can see it. It is hard to pick markings from a listing on someone's catalog or on a website.
4. Shops that stock assorted parts and science project stuff. One of my local shop has a small section of inexpensive motors, gearboxes, craft sticks, and pine car racer accessories. Scratchbuiilders like them, and these non-traditional modelling supplies help bring kids and parents into the shop.....
Things I don't understand:
1. Why shops stock the huge, very expensive RC tanks. One shop in town has had the same Tiger and Pershing on the shelf for a year or more. I suspect it is because they have to price them at close to retail. Problem is that for such a large ticket item, most people who seriously want one will go to the mail order RC outfits, which have prices that the shop can't match. It seems to me to be a big risk for the shop owner, to tie up inventory dollars in the hope that an uninformed (i.e. never heard of Tower Hobbies, et al.) walk in customer will buy it.
2. Why shops still stock the old table-based wargames. (Does anyone still play these?) Maybe they're stuck with old inventory they can't get rid of...?
3. Why there are all those 1/72 scale soft plastic military figures. All the shops seem to have them, lots of them. Who buys them? I never have, notr ahs anyone I know. (Somebody must be buying, or there wouldn't be so many sets on the market, right?)
I could go on, but that's probably enough for now......
Hope this helps,
-Bill

biases.
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Depending on there distributors that may be true. There are some items I can't get (without starting another dealer account!). I will however offer althernate sources and do call other local shops if I do not have something on hand. I visit the other shops so I generally know what's available at my competitors.
Dave Henk Jacksonville, FL
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Take a look at Hannant's website "top selling items of the week". Lots of these figures on the list.
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Bart -     First off, best of luck in your venture - I hope it works out. Secondly, force, coerce or otherwise get RPM to re-introduce Floquil's Military Line. ;-)     I've been happy with Model Master enamels and use them extensively, acrylics much less so. Still, seeing a nice selection of paint lines will cater to a wider customer base - keep stocks on hand to replenish colors that move quickly. I do like to see decal lines available in a shop, also some resin and photoetch sets - but whole lines may be impractical and a representative sampling of the line(s) would suffice, providing you can order others for customers.     Discounts to local club members are a plus as is a willingness to special order - I've seen rolling eyes and frowns when customers ask owners to obtain something - why is that?     Get a case or two of Future on display!     Tools - not cheapo stuff that'll bend, break or fall apart but respectable lines like Xuron, X-Acto and Dremel are a plus.     I've never seen one, but other folks here have - and area to sit and talk models and modelbuilding. Perhaps a pot of coffee or some sodas as well. In the movie "Radio", the locals hang around the barber shop to talk football and the like. Someplace to offer general BS sessions might be a godsend to customers and the owner.     Some high-end models but not too many - you may not see them moving much; and area for completed models to be displayed; a restroom customers can access...
    Just a few ideas... Again, best of luck to you.
Frank Kranick
    
Barton Brown wrote:

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Hi Bart,
I'm partial to ModelMaster Acryl, Polly Scale, Gunze and Vallejo acrylics, I don't use but three or four enamels and I never spray them. I do use Alclad II for metal finishes and their primer.
As for brick & mortar shops, coffee and sodas for a nominal fee are always a good thing as is a place to pee. Encourage things like Friday evening BS sessions with munchies brought in by whoever. Have demos. Have sales, give discounts for any model club members. For what not to do, do a google groups search in rms for some guy named Jean Pan, he spills major dirt on a guy that had owned a local shop that's now gone, mainly because of how he acted and treated people. I'll warn you it's full of vitriol and you'll recognize a few names in it, mine included.....but having worked there two years and been a customer longer I can tell you 75% of it is true.....that will tell you what not to do.
For what to carry.....avoid the really big ticket stuff as standard stock, stick to the biggies for the most part and listen to what your customers want (keep a pad and pen handy to jot things down). Always go out of your way to special order things for people, you'll have repeat business from them.....generally if the order is under $100 don't require a deposit, that turns people off. NEVER, EVER try to hard sell anyone, especially in a hobby shop. Make sure anyone who works for you is also a model builder and avoid the mouthbreathing teenage game geeks, they turn off adult modelers fast!!! Make sure you have some good decals, some Eduard PE, Aires resin sets, Cutting Edge stuff (don't go overboard), Aber PE, Jordi and ModelPoint barrels, etc.....don't stock a lot of Verlinden, it doesn't sell well. Always make sure you have aftermarket stuff for armor (PE, resin, barrels, stowage) and make sure it's for the kits you have......you don't need every little aftermarket widget but say enough goodies to completely superdetail one of every three kits stocked is a good start. Aircraft usually need decals (lots of decals) and cockpits with some ordnance......build up slowly as you learn what your customer base wants. Ships.....that's a tough one and the market varies wildly, if you have ship guys get their ideas and avoid stocking large amounts of resin ships.....I personally will not buy Iron Shipwrights products, other guys love them.
Having a new stuff display and a sale table always helps, if it's a year or more old, mark it down and sell it! Always allow customers to view what's in the box.....sure you lose some sales because the kit isn't hat the guy wants but you'll gain more sales because you allow it......no big deal to require the viewing be done at the counter though, decent guys will undersatnd why.
Have a yearly blow out sale for old stock, works wonders for clearing shelves.
Ron
PS-use a barcode system for stocking and selling, makes life much easier. Also make sure employees keep the place neat and that includes you doing some windows, vacuuming and such.....spread the grunt work out. Also insist that when new stuff comes in that special orders be pulled before stocking shelves and make sure to call whoever ordered it....or email them so the wife doesn't find out.
Barton Brown wrote:

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As someone who has had BS sessions on occcasion with the owner of said late shop...you should hear his version... Personally I never saw a lot of what Jean Pan claims happened. That was a great shop,it will be missed.It closed so the owner could go back to school(and the rent went way up),but he still maintains a website and is very much in business... Just my 2 cents,minus the cost of my heat proof suit...
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I use Polly Scale mostly, but a little bit of Tamiya and occasionally a Testors Acryl. I wouldn't go either/or on paint. You'll want to stock acrylic and enamel both...rattle cans and jars. The only enamel we've had locally was Testors, though, so I can't give any enamel recommendations beyond that, and I haven't used it since I started airbrushing.
A lot of other people above have given great suggestions for do's and don'ts. Some of those seem like wishes for the perfect store. The bottom line is keep the customers happy and coming back while making enough money to stay in business.
That said, one of the cool things I like in my favorite local shop is the fact that the employees are often sitting at the counter working on models. They build kits and display them in the store. It's a great way to see some of the newer kits, and it's a draw for people that might have walked in looking for something else. It might grab their interest and create a new customer. Plus, it gives you some time to work on the kit stash. Sometimes, at that same store, another guy comes in and sets up a table in the front of the store and works on models. I often see people standing around watching him. He even airbrushes with a small hobby compressor he brings in.
Along the same vein...have contests. Display the contestant's kits in the store for a few weeks. Give a small prize to the winner...small gift certificate for the store or a kit.
Always make sure items are easily accessable or viewable. An example of this is that one of our local shops has decals stacked on a table behind the counter. The only way to view them is to ask for them to hand over the big stacks. I don't think I've ever bought decals from them. I suggest using something like a photo or baseball card binder. Keep one copy of each set in the binder on the counter and have duplicates behind the counter for restocking. Anyway, the point is, if I can't see it, I can't buy it.
Echoing someone above, I wouldn't stock many of the bigger kits. All three of my local shops have Tamiya 1/350 scale Enterprises, and they have had them for as long as I've been shopping at each of them. If you do keep a big ticket item like that for a long time, mark it down, or have a raffle for it or something. Give a chance to win it with every $10/$20 purchase or something. It's not doing you any good on the shelf.
Along with this, however, you're going to need to do special orders. I understand why a lot of shops don't like to do them. I've seen people walk in several times and ask "Can you get a model of a <insert car or plane here>?". They don't ask "Can you get me a Tamiya 1/24 scale 350Z kit?" If someone asks for something specific, or has a good idea what they want, order it for them. As for a deposit, I have no problem putting money up front with a receipt. It's just good business. It protects you and the customer in case he backs out, or you can't get something that you thought you could.
As for aftermarket parts, I would buy some of the stuff for popular kits to guage interest first. If it sells well, branch out a bit. If not, stick to the basics and special order when needed. You might want to have a sign posted detailing what aftermarket brands you can order. Then, have a list of sets available from those companies behind the counter for customers to browse if they ask.
Anyway...good luck. It's nice to hear about a store being saved instead of fading away.
Barton Brown wrote:

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Barton Brown wrote:

I personally really like the Testors enamel line, really don't care at all for any manufacturer's acrylics. I also like the Floquil line of military, railroad, marine, and figure colors.
As for what I like in a hobbyshop in general - VARIETY...and bits of the esoteric that you can't seem to find anywhere else...Mostkit, Eduard, Zona products for example. If the shop doesn't stock them on the shelves, the ability to quickly get such items on order is a plus.
An "open box" policy is also a favorite - at least one example of a new or popular kit which I may look over and inspect before purchase. In essence, I like a hobby shop to be like a library - someplace I can browse, meet like interested people, as well as purchase what I'm looking for.
--
- Rufus


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I carry Model Masters Oil (military and car racks) & Acrylics. PollyScale RR colors, Testors Hobby paints (the small square bottles), Tamiya Acrylics, and soon the new Tamiya Spray rack with the AS sprays and R/C car paints. I also carry AlClad II metal finish products.
The Tamiya Acrylics has done well in the three weeks since it arrived. Have never had any problems with the Testors Acryl line of paints.
Dave Henk Hobby Oasis
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Hi,
To quote others, Good Luck! It is nice that someone (on the other side of the country of course) is keeping a shop alive.
For paints, I like acrylics. Sadly, I'm not real fanatic about just the right shade in the just the right light etc. so, I tend to prefer cheap. I am guessing that is not a big happy blip on the shop radar screen but its also just me.
You might seriously consider getting into the WarHammer resale thing. My local shop (only shop within 2 hours in any direction) has about a 1/3 of the shop in WarHammer (I think it is the money maker locally). Some of their paints translate to military nicely, others go car/truck just as easy.
I suppose, for basic colors that get used a lot, you might even consider the real cheap "art" brands people find at Walmsrt etc. The margin is low, but you might as well get it as them.
For gods sake include some decent paint "accessories." I get ticked at the local shops which don't have some nice brushes (and some cheapies), primer, etc. Doesn't need to be a "huge" selection, but something more than Testors plastic bristle brushes.
Something I would love to see (haven't since the 70s in Arizona though) is a paint sample board on plastic. At least gives the buyer a chance to see how it will probably look "in the flesh."
>what are your main gripes about retail bricks-and-mortar hobby

I get mad at most of the things others have already noted. I think I mostly get ticked when the employees/owners show no social/professional skills dealing with customers.
I actually think of Granddad's in Springfield VA when I think of a rarely excellent shop, but they are RARE indeed.
Granddads, for me, is nearly the ideal shop. They have almost all the wishes other folks here have noted. They have a battery of catalogs for special orders, rigged so the customer can look for him/herself. They host events, even a once a year "yard sale" in which local builders can try to sell/trade their own excess kits in conjunction with the shop's sale.
Basically, I miss them but make a point of dropping $100+/- whenever I am back in the area, just to show my support.
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Another thought...one now gone local shop had a back room full of older models(usually open but unbuilt),at prices ranging from a fraction of new into the stratosphere for the rare ones.That was also the place I spent the most time.Brought back a lot of memories and let me replace some long gone favorites. Also,another poster mentioned the cheap wal mart style acrylics...I'd only do that if you will have a craft section of the shop.Most of them are too thick,stringy,and hard to thin,to use for hand painting on a model,and probably impossible to airbrush.At least in my experience. But then a craft section,with some paint by number sets,puzzles,etc,to bring in the younger crowd and the significant others who dont model,might be a good idea. So how much discount will all us RMS'ers get for helping? :-)
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Sounds like you're off to a successful start, you're trying to keep the customers happy. Just be careful, you can't please everyone so don't try to.

I'm a fan of MM enamels and have some MM acrylics which I haven't used. Keep the MM enamels as a minimum, I've heard complaints about the acyrls but mostly from the pedantic modellers. Testors MM range seems to span a wide spectrum of modellers.

OK here's my 2cents worth, be aware I'm not in the US and not subject to the range and pricing of paints your customers are:
Automotive: MM enamels are good, Tamiya Spray cans are getting rave reviews in some car forums, I like Tamiya acrylics for detail work.
Aviation: Once again Testors enamels are good, Gunze acyrillics are fantastic (finish, range of colours, easy to apply). Aeromaster is out of production I believe (not that I've ever seen it locally)
Armor: Testors enamels and Tamiya acyrlics. Then there is all the specialist stuff mostly for weathering etc.
Ships: wooden or plastic?
Railroading: Floquil seems to have a following.
Figures: Esoteric bunch with each having their own following.
At the end of the day, ask your customers directly. If you don't have it offer to get some. Don't stock up on any one request, asking for a specific type of paint and buying it can be two entirely different things. If it sells, restock it. If it doesn't, hold onto it a while and then discount it out of the store.

My main gripes:
1. Being biased towards one genre of modelling. Hiring staff with different interests provides a broader base of assistance to your customers (no alieanation). For example, don't have all aircraft modelling staff. Let each staff member use their area of expertise (as long as it's not overly biased).
2. Not catering for all budgets and skill levels. Don't cater solely to the overly anal modellers and don't go the other way by focusing on selling cheap rubbish to beginners. Try to stock quality but don't ignore the cheaper lesser known stuff either.

biases.
If a modeller asks for something specific, offer to get it for them, put them in an order book and then ENSURE you follow through. Nothing is worse than hollow promises to get something that never comes through. Some modellers are really hanging out for that item.
If you use an order book, and several people want the same item, fill those orders on a first come basis regardless of who is in the store when the stock arrives. Nothing is more annoying than some Joe who happened to be in the store pinching your "ordered" stock. Seen it happen to often.
If you offer discounts to "special" customers be consistent in it's application, don't favour certain modellers or types of modellers. Favortism alienates those who feel they are excluded for whatever (sometimes imagnary) reason.

Hope this is more of the first type.

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The Raven
http://www.80scartoons.co.uk/batfinkquote.mp3
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a few things i don't see mentioned: acceptance of various credit cards, a consignment shelf, e-mail or mail order service available
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