In the second half of the Post’s focus on how small businesses can keep their heads above these uncharted economic waters, emphasis will be placed on those local businesses that have survived the onslaught of the recession and in some cases have thrived. Their successes may serve as inspiration or motivation to those who are struggling to keep their shop doors open or hesitant to start a business.
Success stories during a recession can be few and far between but those who have avoided the negative effects of a reeling economy can offer a few simple pointers to help those who are struggling to jumpstart their wavering business. The Hobby Barn in West Jefferson is one business that has weathered the storm. Founded in 1991, owner Danny Jones began piecing together a modest sports memorabilia establishment in a utility building that measured 12 by 16 feet.
“Business was slow at first,” Jones recalls.
As time progressed and a customer base blossomed, Jones moved his modest enterprise to a highway front location between the towns at Mid-Town 7-11. In 2001, Jones further expanded the Hobby Barn by relocating once more to Main Street were the store has continued to evolve as product selection has increased. Currently, The Hobby Barn caters to hobbyists and sports enthusiasts from all walks of life. Jones and coworkers noted that customers ranging in age from six on up to those who are senior citizens frequent the store as there is a wide age discrepancy.
“It really is just all across the board,” Jones said.
From remote control cars, planes, boats, and helicopters, to model paints and soon to be assembled model cars, the Hobby Barn seems to have every niche or leisure pursuit covered. The recent advent of the disc golf course at Ashe County Park has fueled the sale of specialty crafted beveled discs and other accessories.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Jones said
A wide selection of products and services may be the driving force behind the Hobby Barn’s success. Jones’s plans to open a fudge shop in the left corner of the store over the coming months to entice the sweet tooth of potential customers. He also serves the needs of local Boy Scout troops with uniforms and hats and can even provide trophies and other commemorative merchandise for whatever the competition may be. During the winter months, model trains are the big sellers as customers look for an indoor activity to shield them from the fierce Appalachian winters.
The Hobby Barn has also seemed the make the best of what the economy has to offer. With a recession looming, people are beginning to stay closer to home and spending more on entertainment rather than partaking in long vacations and expensive trips to restaurants. Jones speculated that locals may be opting to spend more on leisure activities they can enjoy from home rather than travel.
Jones also strives to meet the needs of every customer, regardless of the size or time required for the task at hand.
“We’ll even do specialty orders,” Jones said. “I don’t care if it is only 50 cents, we’ll do it.”
All in all, it seems the key to the Hobby Barn’s longevity may rest upon customer retention and the arrival of new ones as well as an ever expanding inventory and selection of services.