By Beth Volpert Johansen
From the early days inspired by truckers and Smokey and the Bandit, to the present day fascination with all things that fly, B & B Hobby has seen four decades of hobby enthusiasts enjoying their leisure time. For B & B, it all began in the downstairs office of Fred Botts in 1975. Along with his business partner, Benny Bennett, B & B was formed primarily to sell CB radios to those who caught the chatterbug from The Rubber Duck as he traversed the country in the song Convoy.
From the small home office, Botts and Bennett expanded to a small shop at the corner of Highways 124 & 78. B & B grew and outgrew their space several times. As they grew, radio controlled (RC) cars and then planes caught on and were in demand. “My dad kept expanding the business and moving to new locations, always in Snellville,” says current owner, Kimberly Franklin. “The shop is probably best known for its location in New London Plaza; we were there for more than 17 years.” Kimberly took over ownership of the store in 2001 in order to allow her parents to retire. Last year, she moved the shop to a more visible section of Highway 78 at Cooper Road.
“We have seen all sorts of hobbies over the past four decades,” says Kimberly. “Of course the 1970’s had the CB radios-everybody wanted to talk over them like Smokey and the Bandit.” She and her dad remember the 1980’s with yo-yos, oval track slot-racers, planes and trains. “My dad started the very first RC racetrack club in the state of Georgia,” says Kimberly. “He also started Hilltop Flyers, an RC flying club off Rosebud Road-they still meet there.” Kimberly’s dad, Fred, recalls the clubs as great ways to enjoy a hobby with others who share the same interests. “The club people, they have a way of taking you under their wings-so to speak- and helping you learn to fly,” says Fred. “They stay young that way, I know I haven’t ever really grown up either!”
Timeless choices like wood carving, whittling, wood burning, rockets, microscopes, and magic have all stood the test of time, even through a tough economy. “These have always been solid sellers for us along with ship models and anything military,” says Kimberly. “The late 80’s and early 90’s saw a huge interest in the Dungeons and Dragons games-they played that at the shop too.” The 90’s gave way to Y2K and the early helicopters.
As time progressed, hobby items began to shrink-literally. “Micro-anything was very popular,” says Kimberly. “RC cars and the helicopters were microsized and sold really well.” Technology was improving in all areas of the economy and hobbyists embraced the newest, latest, and greatest tweaks to their favored interests.
The past couple of years have brought more fascination for those who like to look skyward. “We have had RC planes, rockets, and helicopters over the past decades change and improve,” says Kimberly. “Now, the hottest items are the drones.” B & B carries all sorts of models, with and without cameras for the emerging hobby. “We can show them how they work right here in the store,” says Kimberly. “Demonstrating our stock is one of my favorite things to do at the store.”
For Kimberly, selling hobby items brings great job satisfaction, “Hobbies always fit and you can get a gift certificate for someone to choose what they would most like,” says Kimberly. “We have a variety of stock you won’t find at the big box stores-it is unique to our store.” For her dad, Fred, knowing that his daughter has taken such an interest in the store brings him joy. “I am just as proud of her as I can be.”
During our interview, Kimberly takes a short break to head over to meet a young customer clearly fascinated by the Max Traxx racing track set up. The cars don’t need slots and speed across the track like the real thing. “It even glows in the dark,” explains Kimberly as she gets down on the little boy’s level to show him how they work. His eyes glitter with the possibilities such a track could hold.
“One of the most satisfying things about the shop being 40 years old is that I get to see second and third generations sharing a hobby with their family,” says Kimberly. “People will bring their grandkids in and tell me they remember my dad showing them how to work something-it’s the best part of my business.” With service like that, it is no wonder that B & B Hobby has endured as a favorite throughout the years.
For more information visit: http://www.bandbhobby.com or call: 770-972-2328