While television and video games take a big chunk out of kids’ downtime, hobby shops continue to offer their traditional fare of constructive ways to pass the time, often in ways that involve the whole family.
The Apponaug Color Hobby Shop stocks a wide range of plastic and wooden models of boats, cars and planes plus electric train and slot car sets and accessories. It also carries a wide range of hardware. “A lot of raw materials for building your models,” said owner Chuck Moore.
“Quite a few people come looking for salvation from electronics and video games,” said Steve Mason, chief salesman, including parents looking for alternative activities for children. The store is a veritable museum, with antique toys lining the walls, including a working toy steam engine known as a Birmingham Dribbler from the mid-19th century.
Speaking of trains, John Reid of AA Hobbies in Warwick stocks an immaculate store with rows of boxed trains and accessories, plus a range of plastic models of tanks and other military vehicles. “It’s 90 percent trains,” Reid said, adding that he tends to cater to “the older child, 20 years plus.”
And Ray Stomberg, conductor at Grandpa’s Train Depot in Warwick, also tends to stock “big boys’ toys,” with train sets in scales ranging from tiny Z up to hefty G and Standard. However, he also carries a limited range of kids’ tracks, including Carrera slot car sets, Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train sets as well as some electric Thomas engines and rolling stock.
John Elliott of Apple Valley Hobbies in Smithfield stocks many plastic models, including cars, ships and airplanes — indeed, the ceiling of the shop is festooned with about 100 hanging airplanes. “We sell a lot of airplanes,” Elliott said. “Cars too, but they look funny hanging from the ceiling.” He also sells trains and accessories such as tools, paints, books and magazines.
Kim Damon, owner of Newport Hobby House in Middletown, said his store carries plastic models plus detailed completed models, often done by customers. He also sells small planes, remote-control helicopters and wooden boat models in addition to special games, figures and tabletop battle games such as Warhammer 40,000.
Wayne Watt, owner of Ray’s Hobby in Warwick, specializes in radio-controlled planes and off-road electric cars. He also carries quadcopters, helicopters with four propellers commonly known as drones. “You hit a button and it comes back to you,” he said, citing its GPS technology.
Watt said large model airplanes can cost $4,000, with the Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) models particularly popular. “It hurts less when they crash,” comparing the pain in watching the destruction of a plane that has taken months to build.
Paul Sloan of Darlington Hobbies in Warren stocks airplane, boat and train models, as well as plastic and wooden kits, but mostly radio-controlled models. “Cars mostly,” noting the shop has an outdoor dirt race track for radio-controlled cars.
Brands, a hobby shop in North Providence, was packed with giant remote-controlled model planes during a recent visit, but owner Andy Argenio, who is vice president of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, said he was closing up. His grandson has had plans to reopen it in the future.
Argenio cited the importance of learning to fly model airplanes properly. “Some are enormous,” he said.
Chain hobby stores are cornucopias of arts and crafts materials, everything for the creative soul. Some also have traditional items such as plastic models and science kits.
A.C. Moore has a local outlet in Warwick; Hobby Lobby is in Seekonk and Warwick and Seekonk; Jo-Ann Fabric is in Warwick, North Attleboro and Swansea; and Michaels has locations in Middletown, Smithfield, Warwick, Seekonk and North Attleboro.
Check websites below for locations and hours. Also call traditional hobby shops for hours; some are open in the afternoons and evenings only.
AA Hobbies, 655 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. (401) 737-7111
Apple Valley Hobbies, 9 Cedar Swamp Rd., Smithfield. (401) 231-7790
Apponaug Color Hobby Shop, 1364 Greenwich Ave., Warwick. (401) 737-5506
Brands, 2193 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence. (401) 231-5380
Darlington Hobbies, 249 Child St., Warren. (401) 245-7550
Grandpa’s Train Depot, 1415 Warwick Ave., Warwick. (401) 463-7803
Newport Hobby House, 5 Coddington Highway, Middletown. (401) 847-1515
Ray’s Hobby, 190 Buttonwoods Ave., Warwick. (401) 738-4908