Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Don's Hobby Place offers slotcars, skateboard customizing, model kits

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Every little kid should grow up in a town with a hobby shop.

Big kids who did remember theirs fondly as the best place in the world to drop allowance and grass-cutting money on a Saturday morning: the shelves of Revell, Monogram, and Tamiya kits, armor and aircraft and muscle cars, gleaming in those deceptively light, shrink-wrapped boxes, almost too pristine to open; the rainbow rows of Testor paints in their invitingly clean, still unsmudged bottles; andnaturallythe electric trains and the whole complicated infrastructure which went with them, the transformers and switches, the bags of lichen and ballast, the HO- and N-scaled models of water tanks and roundhouses.

Assembling a kit from your hobby shop was like escaping to a parallel polystyrene universe created and inhabited by you alone, whose miniature battlefields, main drags, and rights-of-way were the closest you ever came in those days to giving substance to the secret places of your imagination. Of course, the marvelous magic on sale at the hobby shop was always at its most potent before you started ham-handing the pieces of a model off their spruces and melting them with great globs of airplane glue, before you actually started laying track only to discover that the colossally intricate layout in your head would never fit on a 6 x 3 sheet of plywood.

Even so, if that Tiger tank or Corsair fighter didnt quite turn out like the picture on the boxif that tiny motor refused to drive the treads or you flubbed the paint job on the fuselageyou could still set it on fire or toss it off your roof, then save your pennies and buy a new one.

Duneland has been without a hobby shop for years now, ever since the much-missed Wings & Things closed its doors. You can thank Don Cundiff, then, for opening a hobby shop of his own: Dons Hobby Place at 121 N. 15th St. in Chesterton.

Cundiff is the father of four and the youth director at Chesterton First United Methodist Church and thus in a pretty good position to judge the entertainment choices available to kids in Duneland. His conclusion: there are far too few. Ive been working with the youth group at the church for two or three years now. Were always looking for something to do. But theres really nothing to do in town. Theyve got to leave and go to Michigan City. Theyve got to leave and go to Valpo.

Dons Hobby Place is Cundiffs solution to that problem as well as the fulfillment of a life-long dream. But its also a hobby shop with a difference. For one thing, while Cundiff has stocked a solid line of model kits and a good selection of HO train paraphernaliaincluding some starter setshes geared his store not to rabid hobbyists but to families.

For another thing, Dons Hobby Place is all about the hands-on. As Cundiff says, I grew up on slot cars. Hence his elaborate four-lane 1/32 scale Carrera slot-car track for the older kids and a nice two-lane 1/43 scale track for the younger ones. You can race the 1/32 track at $5 per lane per half-hour. Bring your own car or rent one for $3. Race the 1/43 scale track at $5 per lane per lane, car included. If you want to break into the hobby and buy a slot-car, Cundiff can hook you up too.

At the moment Cundiff is outfitting a party room and has plans soon to offer birthday packages with time on the slot-car track and other amenities. Call 926-9030 for more information.

Cundiffs other great innovation is to give skateboarders a place to work on their rigs. When the First Christian Church at 1110 W. Porter Ave. was still setting up ramps in its parking lot after schoolcourtesy of Duneland Xtreme SportsCundiff through his acquaintance with that churchs former youth director got to know most of the skateboarders in Duneland. They were always working on their boards, detailing them, he says.

So Cundiff got the idea of offering skateboarders the facilities to keep their rides in tune. Hes got all the components to build from scratch or customize: the boards themselves, wheels, hardware, and decals, plus a carpeted work bench. Skateboarders can bring their own tools or rent them for a nominal fee of $2.

Cundiff is well aware of the reputation which skateboarders have in a town which has done all too little to encourage the sport. But its undeserved and unfortunate, he says, and its his goal to give skateboarders a place where they can feel comfortable. The kids are good. They get a bad rap. Thats bull. One bad apple spoils it for everyone.

Make no mistake. If youre in the market for a model kit, either for yourself or your child, youll probably find one to your liking at Dons Hobby Place. Theyre all theremilitary, naval, and automotive, in a range of skill levels, both glue-required and snap-together, as temptingly packaged as you remember themas are the paints and tools and a rack of manuals and catalogues. If railroading is more to your taste, on the other hand, dust off your old gear, pick up some new stuff, and get the whole family involved.

Or just dive into slot-cars.

In short, parents looking to pass on their own happy memories of the neighborhood hobby shop couldnt do better than to send their kids to Dons Hobby Place. On a Saturday morning, when the chores are done, it ought to become the place to be in Duneland.

I havent designed the store for hardcore hobbyists, Cundiff says. I do have hard-core modeling stuff but the business is more family oriented. Were trying to promote family. Thats our mission.

Dons Hobby Place is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.


Posted 4/11/2008




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