By day, Hands On Hobbies is a typical hobby store, selling model cars and airplanes, trains and train-set pieces, collectible card games, model rockets, hobby paint, science kits, stamp- and coin-collecting paraphernalia, and paint-by-number pictures.
At night and on weekends it becomes a haven for kidsage 9 to 99, says Tim Taylor, who owns the Spokane store with his wife, MaRae.
On a recent Friday evening, a cluster of elementary school children were there trading Pokemon cards in the store at 14401 E. Sprague, while two older boys were seated at a long table setting up a game of Warhammer, which uses fantasy-looking pawn pieces that can be hand painted by the players. It isnt uncommon to see as many as 50 children huddled around tables at the store on a Friday evening, say the Taylors, who have four children of their own, and two grandchildren.
We see this as kind of a safe place where kids can be kids, Tim Taylor says.
Hands On Hobbies isnt just for children, though. One night a month is set aside for adults who want to swap collectible cards; to play Knightmare Chess, a combination card and chess game; or try their skill at Roborally, a board game in which players try to get their robot pieces across a factory floor by playing cards that dictate the robots movesall while trying to avoid bumping into other robot pieces or hazards on the factory floor.
Hands On Hobbies also offers classes on how to build scenes for model trains, Christmas villages, and games, and is home to a number of Spokane hobby clubs that meet at the store after business hours.
A kid at heart
Tim Taylor, who in his spare time builds his own model rockets, cars, and airplanes, and collects trains (although he refuses to say how many train-set pieces he has because he doesnt want his wife to find out), makes the perfect hobby-store owner.
Still, it was his wife who planted in his head the idea of opening a hobby store. One day MaRae came down and saw all of my train stuff and said, You could start your own store.
So, he did.
Taylor had retired from the Municipality of Anchorage in 1991, after working in law enforcement there for 16 years. Later that year, the Taylors moved to Spokane, where MaRae Taylor had been born and raised.
I think he just got tired of being retired, MaRae Taylor says. He needed something to do.
The venture opened in a small space at University City Shopping Center in September 1995. At first, Taylor was the shops sole employee. Soon thereafter, MaRae Taylor, who was working as a school teacher, began helping out at the store after work. By the next summer, she had quit her teaching job to help her husband full time.
Taylor says that her teaching experience comes in handy at the shopespecially around science-fair project time.
I usually know what the teachers are after, and I can provide a little bit of help in that area to the kids that come in here, she says.
In 1997, Hands On Hobbies moved into its current, 3,000-square-foot store. In addition to the Taylors, the store currently employs two full-time employees, three part-time employees, and a temporary worker who started this month to help out during the busy holiday season.
We just always expected to be that little hole-in-the-wall hobby shop in the mall, Taylor says, adding that he and his wife have been surprised by the demand for hobby supplies.
Taylor contends that Hands On Hobbies now has the largest selection of hobby merchandise between Seattle and Denver.
The store stocks about 22,000 items, which range in price from about 99 cents for a glider made out of Balsa wood to $500 for a remote-control airplane.
Adding R/C Hobbies assets
In June, the 4-year-old hobby store bought the remaining assets of R/C Hobbies of Spokane.
With the purchase, Hands On Hobbies has expanded its inventory to include the types of remote-control airplanes and boats, as well as mini four-wheel-drive cars, that once filled R/C Hobbies shelves.
Due to the additional lines, the store now is considering another move, or at least an expansion.
Our lease here expires June 30, and were exploring our possibilities, Taylor says.
The new four-wheel-drive cars that Hands On Hobbies offers have gained such popularity that the store has been hosting mini four-wheel-drive car races on Saturdays.
In such racing, racers turn on their motorized carswhich theyve engineered and built themselvesplace them on the track, and sit back and watch how their cars do.
The store has a large, fold-up track with sidewalls that it pulls out each weekend. This past Saturday, the shop hosted the first annual Inland Northwest Regional Championship, which attracted mini four-wheel-drive car racers from Pullman, Wash., and Coeur dAlene, Moscow, and Lewiston, Idaho.
We figured it was a great way to finish off the summer racing season, MaRae Taylor says.
The racing, like most activities at the shop, has attracted both young and old kids.
Starting next month, some mini four-wheel-drive car races will be moved to weekday afternoons so that kids can race just with other kidsrather than with their parents or other adults.
At first the racing started out as just for kids, but man, oh man, did the dads ever get into it! Tim Taylor says. It isnt just dads that got into it, though, MaRae Taylor adds.
Remember, one mom held the racing title for awhile.
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