- Arts and Design
Beat The Cold Weather Blues by Heading to Jan's Hobby Shop in NYC
Jan's Hobby Shop NYC
Jan's Hobby Shop.
Fred Hutchins sits at his desk in an cove lit up warmly by spotlights that give a glow to the various brightly coloured boxes of model planes and boats that surround him. Fred delicately works painting with his airbrush detailing small figurines that he then adds to his model aircraft carrier. At a staggering 4ft in length the model is completed and put in a display case, rivaling those only found in museums. Walking down Lexington Ave, between the various clothing boutiques and delis there lies a relic from a past time, Jan’s Hobby Shop which is located on 94th and Lexington Ave on the Upper East Side.
Fred and Collette
Fred Hutchins, 58, and his mother Colette Hutchins, 83, run Jan’s Hobby Shop. It’s been in business for over 42 years. The small shop sells a variety of model planes, tanks, boats, and accessories needed to paint and assemble the models.
Colette moved to the United States in 1961 where she settled down in the Upper East Side in New York City. When Fred was a child he first discovered the hobby shop and became obsessed with models early on.
Fred gravitated toward models because he said the Upper East Side was a very different and dangerous place in the 1970s. “You were scared about getting mugged outside, people stealing bikes...so it was safer inside.” Thus his passion with models began.
Fred went on to attend college at NYIT where he studied aerospace engineering. He was then hired by a company designing experimental aircraft. “I’m actually certified to fly experimental aircraft, but that was just a hobby to me. Models were my passion.”
After his short career with aerospace engineering Fred found work making props for advertisement. “I worked with Absolut, Coke. It was fun and the money was good but now with CGI, props aren’t really needed anymore.” He also mentioned that he made commercial prototypes of toys. Fred eventually settled back down to the hobby shop where he continues working on his passion.
Colette is very proud her son, “He makes them, I sell them.” Saying this with a huge grin on her face. Collette also proudly mentions that they sell products from all over the world including England, Japan, and Russia to customers who are also from around the world. “I always give them a fair price.” Fred chimes in.
He also said Rod Stewart and other celebrities have been known to stop by the shop from time to time. Fred and Collette’s favorite part of running the shop is dealing with other passionate customers. The shop mainly relies on dependent loyal customers since their business is strictly brick and mortar.
A bit past Fred’s desk could only be described as a cave of models. Boxes and boxes line the walls creating a display of color that is overwhelmingly enticing. Blues, reds, and greens all pop out at you as you walk past them. The art displays of the model boxes create a vibrant window into the hobby.
Fred specializes in boats and aircraft. Throughout the shop you can see the various models he’s made over the last 25 years and winning various competitions throughout that time.
His most recent prized possession is a 4ft aircraft carrier that is enclosed in glass next to the trophy he won crafting it. The aircraft carrier is extraordinarily detailed for its size and painted to replicate the real deal. Small planes line the deck of the ship with at least 25 crew member figurines. This type of detail is usually found in a museum, which is where you might find it. Fred is reconsigned in a Boston naval museum as a top maritime boat modeler.
All the models displayed in the shop are hand painted and for larger paint jobs there is an airbrush at Fred’s small desk. The desk is is cluttered with small bottles of paints, rulers, glue, pliers and blades like an exacto knife.
An average day for the hobby shop consists of inventory and other various small businesses aspects for 25 percent of the day including restorations for customers. The other 75 percent of time Fred works on his own personal projects.
Commenting on new hobbies like drones Fred had a few things to say “In the beginning we sold them when they were a fad two years ago, but after awhile they just began to become more proprietary and I didn’t want people coming in asking me to fix them all the time. You have to open them up and switch out components and then re-solder them. Not dealing with that.” This led the shop to stop selling them and focus mostly on models.