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Weather having effect on East Coast hobby dealers

By Hal Miller
Published: January 13, 2011

Recent winter storms on the East Coast have been playing havoc with road and airline traffic. They haven’t been particularly good for retail hobby business either — and according to some dealers, it’s not completely the precipitation’s fault.


Bruce Throne of Walt’s Hobby in Syracuse, N.Y., says his area has seen above average snowfall this winter, beginning in early December. That cost him “tons” of pre-Christmas business. “We got it back, mostly,” he said, “but not all of it.” More was falling in the area this week.

Kimberly Miller-Gordon of Turn 4 Hobbies in West Boylston, Mass., said her store was closed Wednesday due to a snow emergency. The business also was bitten by the weather bug Dec. 27, when the white stuff shut down area businesses, putting a crimp in post-Christmas sales.

Throne and Gordon’s areas get significant winter weather and the states and municipalities are familiar with snow removal. They say the bigger problem is actually the media, which makes big stories out of the weather events before the flakes even begin to fall. Consumers watch and decide they’re not going to venture out well before the storm hits. Throne says they don’t come into the shop and order online from home, instead.

Farther south, where snow and ice removal aren’t as commonplace, things ground to a halt earlier in the week. Frank Ruby at Blue Ridge Hobbies in Greenville, S.C., said his area got 9 inches of snow in 3-4 hours Tuesday. Temperatures dropping into the teens the next night caused ice to form, shutting down some highways and services like FedEx. Because of the ice, “I couldn’t even take deliveries behind my store,” he said.

Farther west, in Jeannette, Pa., home of Niedzalkoski’s Train Shop, there’s been very little snow. But Mike Niedzalkoski says he’s noticing people within 15-20 miles of the store are using mail order because they don’t want to get out in the cold.