The Roundhouse Podcast

034: The Resilience of Niagara Hobby

Niagara Hobby

Niagara Hobby & Craft Mart

What does it take to run a hobby store in the 21st Century?  John Kavulich, President of Niagara Hobby & Craft Mart in Cheektowaga NY, joins us to discuss the triumphs and trials of the business.

We visit the store in-person, hear from customer Esh Estarfaa and employee Al Plant, and interview John in his office!

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Question of the Day (39:43)

What is your favorite memory of visiting a hobby store?  Let me know and I will respond to your comments in our next episode.

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5 thoughts on “034: The Resilience of Niagara Hobby

  1. Sam

    My favorite memory of my local brick-and-mortar shop is from when I was 5. We walked in because I had begged my mom to stop so we could look around. The owner came out and turned on the Lionel O gauge layout, and the world of wonder on that bench work had me intensely peeking up over the edge at the action. I had to be dragged from the shop crying when it came time to leave.

    I wouldn’t become a railfan or model railroader until I was 14, but that one powerful memory brought me back through his doors 9 years after that first visit to get my first “real” model train.

  2. Matthew Lohmar

    Listening to the podcast right now. Thoughly enjoy it but I have to disagree that model railroading is dying. No offense to John but I do not see what he sees in the hobby.
    I belong to a train club in the Chicagoland area and I would venture to say 2-3 times a week, average we have people coming in and asking about the hobby, places to buy supplies what we recommend ect.
    Our first place we tell people to go is Walts hobby shop in Crest Hill.
    Is the hobby changing? Of course, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. Of course we are getting away from the massive 80 watt analog transformers, but the motors are getting smaller, more efficient, and DCC has made its handhold in the hobby. Add to the fact that there’s now Bluetooth control and dead rail battery technology coming up, the hobby is coming along in quite a way
    But the price point for a lot of this stuff is a bit of a detracting factor and I’ll admit right up front that I really detest spending a thousand dollars for a locomotive. Main reason being that I work construction and can be laid off for 6-8 months of not longer
    The 2008 recession did little to help the hobby and it’s going to take time to recover from it.

  3. Mr.David Leli

    Whenever I was home on leave with my family, I would love to take my son to the Niagara Hobby shop. We would take a few pictures in the caboose and with Thomas out front.
    A lot of great memories that will never fade, it is to this day one of THE BEST hobby shops I have ever taken my son and daughter to in the past 21 years
    Thank you.

    David Leli
    Wilmington NC

  4. Bill Mohan

    Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart truly was resilient. As of this posting this weekend it has been announced on their website and on the local media there that they are closing their doors after nearly 32 years in the business and serving the community. However, the Kavulich family lovingly said in their closing statement that “perhaps you may see us again.” As for the caboose and its future that unfortunately remains to bee seen. Here is hoping that the Cheektowaga Historical Society can possibly acquire it for their collection.
    As for me I will not forget the many years they have been with me in my fledgeling career in this fine hobby. It was with me from the first part of my infant association with the hobby to my budding years in my teens-early twenties. All it took was finding their billboard out near Waldameer park in 2000. From then on going to Buffalo for and here in particular made it worth while. It was where I purchased my last set of Ertl Thomas toys before the line was cancelled in the early 2000s(a sad day that was when I did not find them on the shelf in the store). I also purchased some of my early N models here roughly three years or so prior.

    Indeed, I will walk away with many special memories of that place.

  5. Frank Mundy

    My father had a Hobby Shop of which he started in 1959 on Young St. in the city of Tonawanda, it was known as the Karting Shop, it was named The Karting Shop of where he began selling Go Karts, this was because I was alowed to race them at the age of 9. Well I also had a passion for Lionel trains an d my dad was a fan of the beauty of The Santa-Fe Engines and cars. Although our basement could not support a realist “O” gauge layout he discovered a liking for the “HO” scale which was jut becoming popular.After some extensive research he decided to add this as a second feature of our shop. He found John Kavulich at 73 Leslie St in Buffalo, was the wholesale distributor for all the retail sales outlets of train and various other Hobby items. I had the pleasure to know him as a friendly, helpful and supportive person and I can remember when he opened the Union Rd location. Needless to say his son followed in his footsteps and preserved his passion for the joy that trains and other hobbies brought to both young and old. The business will be missed by many but has always been appreciated by all. This was part of John’s history that I was proud to share

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