WALLINGFORD — Despite the stacks of boxes filled with model airplane supplies, and skewed store aisles, customers filed into a local hobby shop this week to purchase items before the store closes at the end of the month.
Build Right Fly Right, 342 Quinnipiac St., is slated to close on Halloween. Owner Joe Acosta said although it pains him to close the store, he knows it’s the right time to retire.
“At the end of the day, if I can help someone else be successful in their hobby, then I feel I’ve done my job,” he said.
The shop has operated in various locations, including Meriden and Yalesville. Acosta has been an airplane enthusiast for most of his life, training helicopter pilots, and participating in competitive flying. Over 25 years, he has seen a lot of changes.
“The reality is, all of this stuff changes so quickly,” Acosta said. “Today it’s a little different because of the lack of people doing destination shopping. This business, quite frankly, was built on me being the instructor, the teacher.”
Part of the appeal of visiting the shop, Acosta said, was that customers could ask questions and interact with employees and other enthusiasts. But it has become harder to compete with the Internet. More and more customers purchase online and rely on online videos for instruction, he said. He worries about people passing themselves off as experts on the Internet without actual credentials.
“Now I’ve been replaced by that,” Acosta said pointing to a computer screen.
Acosta said over the years the hobby has become easier for participants. Years ago it could take six months to build and fly a model plane, but now a customer can purchase a plane and have it flying in 30 minutes. The rise of drone technology has also contributed to a decline in the hobby industry. In an attempt to adapt, Acosta also flies drones for local companies.
Tim Ryan, town economic development specialist, said the closing of any retailer is always a concern.
“Retailing is changing like we’ve never seen in our lifetime,” Ryan said. “It’s benefiting some and hurting others.”
Acosta had hoped to sell the business when he retired, but with the number of hobby stores closing, it didn’t seem plausible, he said. He plans to travel, sell the remainder of his supplies on his website and enjoy flying model aircraft as a hobby.