Contributed by Sam Cheung
Some people have family barbers. Others have a family mechanic. Ron Brott and Dave Henry would like to be the family hobby guys, at least among Remote-Control diehards. Judging by the morning lineups at the cash register, that’s exactly what they have become.
The pair, long-time friends and business partners, co-own Pinnacle Hobby Inc., an 1,800-square-foot storefront in a heritage-style strip mall near one of Markham, Ontario’s busiest intersections. It shares a parking lot with other family-attractive businesses including a private preschool, walk-in medical clinic, Mr. Sub and a pet supplies retailer.
The City of Markham, a 30-minute drive northeast of Toronto, mixes contemporary subdivisions with century homes and has attracted a growing population of over 300,000. Pinnacle serves as a primary destination shop for the surrounding community, but the customer base covers a broad area extending to Bowmanville, Barrie and Hamilton.
Dave and Ron opened Pinnacle in 1993 with just 2,000 SKUs. Today, their inventory includes over 32,000 SKUs — from midget-sized bottles of modeling paint and sheets of balsa wood to high-tech model vehicles and airplanes, with items priced from a few dollars to a few thousand. For serious and casual hobbyists alike, it’s a product paradise.
Like all good hobby stores the interior combines organized clutter with the promise of discovery. Cardboard boxes stuffed with R/C planes are pushed up against the north wall. A black-framed glass case dominates the centre of the store, displaying gold-coloured mini engines and a variety of batteries, the plastic-wrapped cells resembling granola bars encased in electrical tape. The west wall is lined with train track and a rainbow of R/C cars on hooks. Large and colourful model planes — some used, but most new — hang from the ceiling.
Despite the broad selection, the store stands behind every product. “We don’t carry anything we can’t support in terms of warranties, replacement parts and information,” says Ron. “It may be a hot product, but if we don’t think we can get parts down the line, we don’t bring it in.”
In addition to finding products for all budgets, customers know they can count on a friendly face. Visitors are welcomed with a nod and a smile, and usually, by name. The store maintains a database of around 4,000 active clients, from youngsters to a 90-plus oldtimer, and neither Ron nor Dave is likely to forget a first name or special preference. “More than half our business is repeat customers,” says Ron. “There’s at least a hundred or more regulars in here every single week.”
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