Hornet Hobbies: Should you shop here?
You know you’re onto something when you find yourself dropping by a scale modelling hobby store just because it feels welcoming to walk in the door. If you’re made to feel like a regular by both staff and customers alike you feel like staying a while. Once inside, you know you’re still in the right place if they carry a variety of plastic scale modelling staples as well as new shiny things. It’s also a giveaway if the quality of the customer’s work on display is top notch. Hornet Hobbies in Toronto, Ontario checks all these boxes.
Store Experience: Previously, we evaluated the Meeplemart gaming store using the “Third Place Theory” which tells us that after home and work people are looking for a third place to be anchors of their community life and facilitate and nurture wider, more creative interaction. Hornet Hobbies obviously is that third place for many of their customers
I spent a happy hour there last weekend being part of the comings and goings and it’s clear customers visit at least once a week to chat with staff and each other as much as to shop. I had a great talk with several people about all things hobby related. In terms of being the hub of a welcoming community, Hornet Hobbies hits it out of the park. This was my fifth such visit to the shop in the last two years and my experience with staff, store, and clientele has been consistently positive in this way. They are also actively involved in starting and nurturing hobby clubs.
From the website: Hornet Hobbies is excited to help build the modelling community in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. What we want is to create a family of modellers and enthusiasts who find a welcome home in our walls. One of the ways we accomplish this is to provide modelling clubs with a free meeting space in our clinic rooms downstairs. If your club would like to meet here please call or e-mail.
Paints, Tools, and Things You Didn’t Know You Needed: They carry a full range of the major lines of paints, glues, powders, washes, and several other smaller lines besides. The price is very reasonable. What ever basics you need, you won’t go home disappointed. And, they always have things that either I’ve never seen before or didn’t know existed and I consider myself pretty well travelled in the world of hobby stores.
There is, of course, a selection of photoetch, decals, after market resin, air brushes, compressors, tools, paintbrushes, and files. There are also tons of other bits and pieces on which you can while away your time and money. Every time I go to Hornet Hobbies there is, distressingly, something that I can’t live without. Here’s a sample of stuff that’s followed me home from one visit or another.
Model Kits: On the shelves, there are more model kits than you could build in a lifetime of dedicated building; however, compared to some models stores, the collection is not exhaustive. At Hornet Hobbies this is not necessarily a deal breaker.
The regulars order their stuff in advance and have it waiting for them when they arrive. Also, like a good comic or book store, the staff know what their regulars want and put it away for them. A couple of times I heard someone behind the counter say, “These just came in and I put one away for you.” So while they may not have what you want on the shelf I’m sure they could get just about anything for you within a week. Depends if you’re patient or not and if it’s instant gratification you’re looking for there’s lots of that to be found on the shelves even if your specific model kit isn’t.
There are lots of great models made by customers and well displayed all around the store. The quality of the models on display and the store’s willingness to display them says a lot about a hobby store. Lots of talent and pride in what they do here.
There are, however, things about the store that detract from the experience. There’s a point where piles of model kits and other stuff on display ceases to be eclectic and becomes cluttered. There are model railway items in the store and on display. You just can’t really see them or get at them. There are areas along a couple of walls that are so cluttered you can’t get into them. I’d say about twenty percent of the store is inaccessible and at least half the space is gummed up with a few items spilled across a lot of real estate.
From someone who regularly does a ruthless clean out of my classroom in order to maximize usable space, I can see that that Hornet Hobbies could benefit from two solid days of three or four people organizing and cleaning. There is enough wasted space in the back corner to set up, say, a big permanent model building table for the workshops and demos that are done at the store and allow customers to buy and build. There is a ton of potential echoing around the back reaches of Hornet Hobbies. For some, the organization of the place is part of the charm but I also know modelers who would walk in and right back out again, mistaking the disorganization as a sign of a poorly run business when in fact the opposite is true.
Hornet Hobbies is a great model store that embodies everything great about the hobby and I’ll be making regular pit stops there when I’m in the Toronto area.