|Bill Craig, co-owner of Leesburg Hobbies & Collectibles, stands in front of a wall of O-gauge model trains at the downtown Leesburg store, Craig has an extensive collection of O-gauge HO-gauge trains at home that his 12-year-old daughter also enjoys. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny.|
On Sept. 1, 2001, Leesburg Hobbies and Collectibles opened its doors at 9 Market St. It had some big shoes to fill. A year or so prior, Leesburg Hobbies, a store with a similar clientele, had closed when the owner retired.
“We knew we had a market already established,” says owner Bill Craig, who runs the shop with his father, Mike Craig.
Years prior, Bill and Mike Craig knew they wanted to start a business. But like many budding entrepreneurs, the question was what business to start. They ended up looking at what they already enjoyed doing — hobbies. Though hobby shops are becoming fewer and fewer in number, Bill wanted to start a shop that could welcome hobbyists in the area.
“We wanted a place where families could build stuff with their hands in a fun way,” says Bill.
The store is far more than model trains though. The store also supports the scouting community, both Girls and Boys, something that is again close to the owners’ hearts. Bill was a Boy Scout and Mike Craig was a troop leader for many years.
It was this focus on family fun that encouraged the store to open up on Friday nights, 5:30 until 8:30, for table top gaming. Middle school kids to retirees come to enjoy gaming, with scenery and supplies provided by the store. Participants can bring in their own materials as well to add to the gaming experience. Though war gamers have a reputation for being ultra-competitive, Bill fosters a family-friendly mood each Friday night, asking everyone to be on their best behavior and focus on having multi-generational fun.
The store has also benefitted by the growth in the scouting community around Loudoun County. Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can find patches and supplies without having to hunt the internet or wait on shipping. For the many scouts in our area, Leesburg Hobbies and Collectibles is the go-to store for their uniforms and pins.
In the 12 years since the store opened, Bill has seen many changes in the area. As the Loudoun population creeps further west, the area he says is “growing up.” Although this would seem to be a boon to the store, it has created problems as well. Parking is an issue for most of Leesburg, but the shop, which has an older clientele, is especially affected. Handicap parking, a must for many older hobbyists, is at a premium in Leesburg, tempting some hobbyists to turn to internet shopping rather than the store. Though Bill is quick to point out that most of those who go to the internet come back for the expertise and experience that is Leesburg Hobbies and Collectibles.
Lately, Bill has seen a bit of a resurgence in the hobby market. Although hobby stores are extremely susceptible to economic pressures, and especially in Leesburg, where the Washington-effects are keenly felt, he’s seen many train enthusiasts work to pass on their hobby to the next generation. With hobby-level trains starting at just over $100 and going well into the thousands, these collectible trains are not just for kids
“Typically, it’ll be a grandparent buying something for their grandchild, usually around Christmas,” continues Bill.
Although they do sell Christmas-themed sets, the staff at Leesburg Hobbies and Collectibles work hard to get to know the needs and wants of the customer. Whether the person is looking for a one-time complete gift, or something to kick off an interest in model trains or gaming that will last a life time, there is someone there to help. Unlike internet-only retailers, they have the know-how to drive your hobby interest into the station. The shop also lends it expertise to Morven Park, setting up a train that circles the park’s Christmas tree.
“All of our employees are fully training and can answer questions,” says Bill. “We can guide people through the process and get them where they want to be.”
This business profile originally appeared in the Times-Mirror's "Downtown Leesburg" publication for fourth quarter 2013.
|Leesburg Hobbies and Collectibles offers a variety of tabletop games and models along with trains and Scouting paraphernalia. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny. |
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