Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 18 December 2009 00:00
Trains. Models. Remote control cars. Welcome to the world of Willis Hobbies, where you can forget about the stresses of life and be a kid again.
For the past 60 years, Willis Hobbies has been there for enthusiasts of all different types of hobbies and those that run the store are enjoying themselves, too. “I love my job. I love going to work every day,” said Steve Ford, the friendly and pleasant proprietor of the store who is always willing to help his customers or the community through his involvement in the Mineola Chamber of Commerce.
Steve is the immediate past president of the chamber and has been instrumental in continuing the tradition of the chamber’s involvement with the community.
Willis Hobbies, located at 300 Willis Avenue in Mineola, just north of Jericho Turnpike, is a family-owned hobby store, run by Steve and Ken Ford. For the past 60 years, the store has allowed customers to pursue their passions for cars, trains, planes, boats, science items and just about anything that can appeal to the kid in everyone. As Steve says, “We have products for all seasons.”
The store was purchased by Alfred Ford on January 1, 1970, from a couple who started the business in 1949. The store had other locations including Hillside Avenue in Williston Park and on Willis Avenue next to Foresto’s Tuxedos. But in 1998, Alfred Ford bought the building that houses the store’s current location from Izzy Irace and the store has been there ever since.
Through the years, the business has expanded and its most recent expansion is a downstairs room that accommodates children’s parties. The room is complete with a racing car track, an elaborate train set with buildings and mountains and flight simulators, all of which can provide children with hours of entertainment.
When you have been in business as long as Willis Hobbies, you develop strong relations with your customers. Steve Ford said customers come from as far away as Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. Steve is also proud of the fact that dads who came to the store as kids now bring their own kids into the store. “We talk with our customers. We get to know them. That’s what’s special about it,” said Steve, adding that his father instilled a philosophy that the store should service what it sells.
With the holiday season here, it is a busy time of year for Willis Hobbies. Steve Ford and the staff wouldn’t have it any other way. They love to share their passion for hobbies with their customers who bring that same love for their hobbies with them into the store. “Like they say in the chamber, I play with toys all day,” said Steve with a smile.
Congratulations to Willis Hobbies on 60 years of helping to keep the community young.