Non-Stop Fun at Exeter Hobbies
May 27, 2016 02:44PM
● By Ronda Alvey
By Jordan Venema
Photo: Brittany Wilbur
When you begin to think about the range of seriousness with which an enthusiast attacks his hobby, you start to realize the word’s descriptive shortcomings. “Hobby” can describe anything from building ships in bottles to collecting coins, from trading cards to flying kites or playing with paper dolls. Whether it’s a quiet pastime or frenetic passion, you can probably call it a hobby.
And though one man’s passion may be another man’s waste of time, there’s at least one Exeter building large enough where every hobby can find its place.
If you’re not a competitive radio-controlled (R/C) car racer or Kendama trickster, Exeter Hobbies may have flown under your radar – especially if you haven’t yet been caught up by the latest craze, flying drones. But if you are remotely curious to find new interests, you’ll probably find one to grab your attention in the 15,000-square-foot building.
Owner Mark Hull started Exeter Hobbies about five years ago when he realized he could turn his own hobby, building and racing R/C cars, into a career. “You definitely do it because you love it,” Hull says. “We started selling stuff online, and then I found this beautiful building in Exeter.”
Hull didn’t just turn transform the building into a retail store, though. He also created a massive playground for R/C car enthusiasts.
“We are a hobby shop,” he explains, “but our primary interest in this area is family entertainment. We have a really large indoor off-road track, and a person can come in and spend $10 and race around a truck for about an hour.”
Hull built a 3,000-square-foot, off-road clay track replete with jumps and curves. “There’s a driver stand for people of all ages to stand up and get a better view of the track,” says Hull, adding that it’s handicap accessible.
Hull also built a rock crawling course, “a big off-road track filled mostly with rock and wood,” he says, through which a Jeep-like R/C “navigates around, trying to find different ways through.”
A $5 or $10 rental will buy a guest one hour on either track, plus the use of its respective vehicle, but guests who bring their own R/C cars can use the track for the entire day, plus get a spot to charge batteries, for only 10 bucks.
And you’re never too old pick up an R/C and start racing, says Hull.
“We’ve got some serious guys, retired guys who come,” says Hull, and clubs even organize their own races.
While purchasing an R/C car can be an investment, it’s also a lot cheaper than renting one every hour, and cheaper still than investing in more expensive hobbies – like an actual car.
“I’m one of the kids that didn’t get into sports, and so my family allowed me to buy an R/C car and play with it, build it, race it, fix it, repair it, modify it,” says Hull. “I later did that with real cars.” Once Hull made the transition to real cars, he began repairing a hot rod. He laughs, saying that cost way more than an R/C ever did, “and it’s still not done.”
“This is a hobby that a lot of people within reason can afford,” says Hull, plus “it allows people to live out a dream. A lot of adults might not admit it, but they’re having a lot of fun building, tuning, improving the performance of their cars.”
People’s dreams do differ, so what makes sense to Hull and other R/C enthusiasts might seem crazy to somebody else.
Case in point: “right now what’s really hot with kids is Kendamas, those little sticks with balls. Yeah, I don’t really get it,” admits Hull, “but it’s not my generation.”
His shop carries about 50 different models of Kendamas right now, but once he had a woman ask him to find the holy grail of Kendamas. “I had a lady begging me to find this model, but I told her I didn’t have it. So I Googled it and it was $400, and the ball was the size of a basketball.” Surprised, Hull asked the woman if she was aware of the cost, and “she wrote back saying she knew, and that three other parents were looking for this, too.”
Sure, that seems like a lot of money for a stick and ball, but after all, kids used to spend their entire allowances on cardboard coins with cheap screen-printed images – remember Pogs? So maybe Kendamas aren’t that outrageous after all.
That’s the beauty of hobbies. “Well, we call it an addiction sometimes,” Hull says with a laugh. They don’t have to make sense to anybody else – only you. So feel free to explore your passion, addiction, hobby or whatever you call it, from racing R/C cars or flying R/C helicopters, to building trains, planes and other plastic models. Maybe you’ll find your niche at Exeter Hobbies.
130 E. Maple Street, Exeter
Monday-Friday 8:30 am-6:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm
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