Fresno store leaves powering legacy of passion, associations

HobbyTown Fresno employee Chris Thompson talks about an RC automobile with a buyer. HobbyTown Fresno

HobbyTown Fresno employee Chris Thompson talks about an RC automobile with a buyer. HobbyTown Fresno has been in company because 1992. Image by Donald A. Promnitz

For salesperson and scale product builder Ernie Gee, Hobbytown United states of america Fresno has been a component of his daily life considering that 1992, when entrepreneurs John and Kayanne Yung made available him a place on their personnel.

At 16, the new retail outlet was his initial career and he still has the stub from his first paycheck. Almost 29 decades later on, Gee is their longest-serving staff. And although his passion for creating versions has taken him all over the planet, Hobbytown has generally been there as his 2nd house, and fellow staff and even buyers as his prolonged loved ones. Now, as the retailer prepares to close its doorways for the previous time on Jan. 23, he’s been reflecting on the experienced and personal impact it’s had.

“Honestly, I have no concept what I’d be undertaking these days if this wasn’t below and I undoubtedly would not transform it 1 little bit,” Gee mentioned. “This spot has absolutely formed not only my existence, but a ton of other peoples’ lives as effectively.”

Hobbytown Fresno was born from a twist of destiny when life dealt an sudden blow to the Yungs. Originally an airline ticket agent and later on a supervisor, John and Kayanne very first acquired the strategy to be franchisees when they observed an advert in an RC motor vehicle magazine. They flew out to the headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska for an job interview. Concerning John’s perform in purchaser service and the clerical do the job that accompanied Kayanne’s occupation as a phlebotomist, they have been identified to be a great healthy, but set the challenge away for a time.

Then, John arrived down with a viral infection that would at some point outcome in him getting permanently paralyzed from the chest down. Not able to travel to San Francisco for work and needing a way to put their a few young children through college, the Yungs reached out to Hobbytown as soon as additional, owning currently qualified for an Modest Small business Administration personal loan to open an ice product/frozen yogurt and sandwich shop.

In 1992, they opened the Fresno franchise at Bullard and Marks avenues, just before afterwards shifting to a larger spot at Blackstone and Barstow in 2011. In accordance to Kayanne, it wasn’t just a way for them to keep building a residing, but it was a happy change of pace from the usually “grouchy” prospects they dealt with at the airport and the clinic.

“It was a totally diverse kind of environment — it was entertaining to communicate to men and women about their hobby and to see there’s involvement in between generations,” she mentioned. “It’s a spouse and children-oriented point and it’s fun.”

“We had a whole lot of customers in the span of 28 years,” John mentioned. “I search at them and say, ‘oh my god, they’ve received little ones.’”

Meanwhile, Hobbytown developed a standing as a keep like none other in the Valley as a jack-of-all-trades passion retailer, in which there was some thing for every person from inexperienced persons to longtime lovers alike.

“Granted, there are other pastime shops in town, but they’re all focused on radio regulate and items like that,” Gee reported. “We were being different for the reason that of all the diversity of gaming, radio regulate stuff, models, stuff for children — educational issues.”

It also received a reputation as a launching pad for collaborations and associations, wherever hobbyists could fulfill and learn. Longtime patron Dennis Ugulano professional this firsthand. Ugulano, who specializes in kits of Entire world War I plane, has a collection of planes at this time numbering 226 — all of which were being on exhibit at the keep.

From the backroom of Hobbytown, Ugulano teaches a design-setting up course on Fridays. What started with him becoming a mentor sooner or later turned into him studying from the young builders he after instructed.

“I deal with modelers all above the state — really all about the world — no just one has what we have below,” Ugulano reported. “A room, all day lengthy, no demand, and totally superb backup by the proprietors.”

Having said that, as the Yungs get more mature, equally have stated they’re now ready to phase down. And with their five-12 months lease ending this month, John and Kayanne explained that now was the ideal time to retire. The gradual shift to on line retail also didn’t assist.

For his part, Ugulano, Gee and some others intend to keep their hobby going for the following era, but have admitted that it will be a obstacle.

“It’ll leave a void,” Ugulano mentioned. “The camaraderie, the educating, the banter back-and-forth, which is all absent now. If we meet once again, it’ll be in very little informal teams here and there. It will not be just about anything arranged.”

But though they are unhappy to near up, Kayanne and John say there are no regrets. What began as a way to assistance their relatives soon after tragedy has turned into a legacy of virtually three decades of passions uncovered — and friendships made.

“We’ve got some grey hairs,” Kayanne reported. “But all-in-all, we’ve achieved some interesting men and women.”