Dave’s Hobby Central Going out of Businesses

Owner Blames Economy, City Hall, Bad Retail Decisions

Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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Come January 19, the model trains will stop in their tracks, the plastic figurines put to bed in their boxes. After 67 years in business, Dave’s Hobby Central in downtown Santa Barbara — which has changed hands and names a few times over the decades — will close its doors for good.

The West Anapamu Street store, said current owner Vernon Morseman, was put under by a beleaguered economy, an unwise shift toward specialty items, and a City Hall that cares little about the health and success of small businesses. “The city is run by people that don’t know that they just don’t know,” he claimed. “You always feel like a salmon swimming upstream.”

Morseman, who also owns and operates Ventura Hobbies on Johnson Drive in Ventura, pointed specifically to the 20 parking spaces in nearby City Lot #5 that have been co-opted for the Victoria Hall renovation. He said access to his store has been unfairly limited, and that requests to paint the curb on his side of Anapamu — yellow for loading and unloading, or green for 15-minute parking — have fallen on deaf ears. (Similar parking complaints made by Morseman’s commercial neighbors can be found here.) “They’ve turned it into a cookie cutter town with big chains,” he went on. “Santa Barbara looks like everywhere else now.”

Dave’s Hobby Central had been operated by Dave Wyckoff for the last six years, but Morseman stepped back into the picture December 31 when it became clear there was no saving the business. “I had to sit down and make really hard decisions,” Morseman said. “Looking through clear eyes, I realized it’s time to semi-retire. I simply don’t have enough staff to run that store.” Morseman will continue on with Ventura Hobbies, and whatever merchandise the S.B. location doesn’t sell before January 19 will be moved there. Morseman first started working at the Santa Barbara store in the mid-1970s with the original owner, Tom Atkins. Back then it was called Atkins Hobbies.

Under Wycoff’s watch, Morseman noted, the store became more of a specialty shop that focused on radio controls cars and airplanes instead of offering general hobby items. “Radio control customers don’t support you for the long-term,” Morseman explained. “The moms helping their kids with school projects, the modelers — those are the customers that sustain you. It’s about catering the best you can to the largest group of customers.”

While Morseman had more than a few choice words about issues he sees with city government, he made it a point to thank all his customers over the years. “We had a great run,” he said. “It’s time to say thank you to all the Santa Barbara customers. It’s been fun. We’ve enjoyed it.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Finally someone is exposing the Vast Government-Wing Conspiracy that City Hall has against radio-controlled model cars.

Customer shifts in the Internets Age nor the inflating price of property rents must have nothing to do with the failure of this business.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm surprised he didn't mention the threat of Obamacare:

djfranchise (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's always sad when an any local business struggles or has to end. Saddest for the longest lasting ones, especially.

But I remember that before we turned into Chain Store Land, (remember Piccadilly Square?) retail was a VERY rough business to be in, in SB. Places came and went almost on a monthly basis.

I think this might be less about the way the city is run and more about a business that was really lucky for a long time and was run well enough to survive until a time that people's interests have changed.

(I also can't see how 20 spaces in a lot behind him could really change the flow of his business. There's the huge lot across the street. I think it's more of a case of demand for the product. If you want to shop there, you can certainly find a space to park.)

Still, sad regardless.

Native1 (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 11:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I've met Dave, nice guy. I'm sorry to see the store closing.

One difficulty with the radio control hobby is there are myriad ways to get what you need over the internet. The hobby is so diverse, it's a challenge for a small town shop to carry all the inventory needed to please everyone.

Combine that with large-volume mail order web-stores that specialize in low-priced, good quality Asian hobby supplies, and it becomes an even tougher business. Think distribution businesses who have direct ties to manufacturers like Parts Express, Monoprice, MCM Electronics, etc. These guys have figured out how to lever off globalization. An example of an equivalent in the radio control market would be Hobby King.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 11:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No, it is not the Internets and e-commerce that dried up the business revenue, it was a reduction in 20 car parking spaces out of the 1000 other spaces within a two-minute walk of this store.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 2:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I work just down the street. This fellow, along with the Jan at The Travel Store and others on the block have worked very hard to establish and foster their businesses. It is very sad to see Dave's close. I always enjoyed going by and seeing "boys" of all ages in the shop working with the staff to find new things to cherish. Somehow, the models and cars and planes and hobby interests all involved physical activity and lively conversation ...unlike the internet games of today. Dave's closing will mark the end of an era when boys and their dads worked together at the bench out in the garage. It is very sad. I wish I had spent more time with my Dave's.

MidTownBog (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 2:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

very sad to see this shop go. And the owner/manager is so correct when he says SB is or is becoming a cookie cutter town. before long tourists will run out of reasons to come here. There's mountains and ocean in Oxnard, Ventura, Carp, Lompoc ect.
Now most of the stores on State, indeed in SB as a whole can be found in any strip mall.
It is or was the town's cultural/arts scene that really kept this place alive, and the small unique local businesses like this shop.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 2:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm still missing the Italian/Greek deli @Ortega & State. It added a lot more character to State than the Verizon Superstore ever did. Good eats and friendly folks too.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 2:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Edhat says Santa Barbara Outfitters, across State from Dave's Hobby Central, is also closing shop:

As I recall, SB Outfitters is owned by the same people who own Paddle Sports (they had a store on lower State before the dreaded La Entrada Project, now located near Brophy's).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 3:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who doesn't also miss Video Schmideo, MorningGlory, SB Skate Shop....

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 4:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sad to see this store go even though I've only been in a few times and that was years ago. I think the change is kids/teens aren't into hobbies anymore. Their "hobbies" consist of TV, movies and video games. I was a teen not too long ago and I was always outside or building something and would always have a hobby from this type of shop kept aside for those rainy days. But now we're a cookie cutter town and kids are home playing video games all day.

Muggy (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 5:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yeah, I've mourned the loss of the Grk/Italian deli...and in my 93101 Westside area the local hardware store, a beloved & useful place (last little hardware shop in SB, I believe), is under real pressure to get out, their rent is raised...another one bites the dust. Too bad.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 5:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That little hardware store was a real community resource. Sunglass, t-shirt and jewelery shops galore; try to buy a refrigerator in town.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2013 at 5:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@KenV. Thanks for a making me laugh out loud. Comparing Carp, Ventura, Oxnard and----hohohoho!--- Lompoc to SB? That is rich. Umm . . . Old Mission, Courthouse, Cabrillo Beachway, the Harbor, Sterns Wharf . . .

BTW, the abbreviation is "etc." (for etcetera), not "ect."

Farewell Dave's/Atkins. No doubt in my mind the demise is internet-driven. Sad to see you go.

chilldrinfthenight (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 1:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You haven't been to Ventura in a long while.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 1:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A major childhood hangout! Sad to see it go...

passagerider (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 2:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, as an R/C hobbyist who went out of my way to support this shop, it's pretty insulting to be thrown under the bus by this guy as a big part of the reason for his shop closing. I guess I should have just gone ahead and ordered everything on the internet, since obviously my business was not only not valued, but is now blamed for the failure of this shop. Wow.

Myself and plenty of other R/C hobbyists made it a special point to patronize the shop, almost always paying a higher price than we could get elsewhere (online or at other hobby shops), specifically to support a local downtown business. And this despite the fact that we were frequently stymied by a lack of selection and lack of availability.

surfimp (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 6:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I would guess that this little thing called the internet has more to do with it than anything the city has done.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 8:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

childrenofthenight - Old Mission, Cabrillo Beachway, Harbor, etc...yes, those are traditional SB areas but they're all for tourists who want to take pictures and buy trinkets. We really don't have anymore small time local shops and it's sad. Everything in town, I can buy online these days. I remember going into small, local shops as a teenager and knew you would see the same people working there, meet the owners and became friends with them. Now you go into a store and it's like every other town...always different faces, nobody to remember you, people walking around like zombies.

Muggy (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 8:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

With unique shops come hard to find items. With chain stores it's all mass produced (mostly in China) crap.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2013 at 11:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, don't we all wish it was 1950 in Santa Barbara?

Except for maybe the parking mess and rent escalations, this doesn't happen TO stores. People--customers--do it. We want low prices and convenience hence internet shopping and Target in Ventura. WE did this. Not City Hall. Why are all the "cookie cutter" stores on State St? Because WE want them. Why should City Hall say no? Tax revenue will come; storefronts will be full.

And how many kids do "hobbies" that don't involve xbox and computers?

prjaco (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2013 at 7:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So sad to see you leave. You were the last of the stores left in town I actually shopped at. I do not shop at any of the replacement stores. And I was just beginning to restart my model railroading interests. Many will miss you & your store, always a nice place to visit. Unfortunately, Ventura is a long ways away for me. Trust you will do more with your remaining store. This is indeed a loss for the entire city, but, I agree, city leaders have their eyes on a different star.

smithstephenh (anonymous profile)
January 14, 2013 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is very sad but this is just another step to the transformation of Santa Barbara, we now have only chain stores (mainly clothes stores on State st... seriously how many more clothes stores do we need ??!!!!), everything that made this town so special until now is disappearing slowly but surely. Greedy people asking higher and higher rents are a big part of the problem. Santa Barbara is representative of the whole country: being killed by greedy people.

This store could also have been way better in term of product selection and more active in promoting the hobbies (maybe by organizing classes, workshops,promoting the hobbies in schools, etc...)

The sad reality is also the fact that nowadays kids do not build anything. At best they know how to create an app on an iPhone but usually they just play video games and send text messages, and that's about it. Be prepared for a nation of zombies in the next decades.

Vaporbo (anonymous profile)
January 16, 2013 at 8:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I take offense at the "Don't we wish it were 1950 in SB " comment. NO not by any stretch of the imagination has anybody indicated a desire to return to the past. Only a noncorporatized State St. which serves local residents and has appeal to visitors, not serve visitors and pay lip service to the locals.
Business that spend that reinvest here in other local businesses, not the Cayman Islands.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 16, 2013 at 8:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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