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'I just need out': Beloved Vancouver hobby shop may close after 35 years

After decades helping train fans, prop builders and model painters, it's time to leave

Hal Kinsey knows the exact day he opened up Central Hobbies: April 8, 1988.

He'd taken over Gary's Trains Centre when the owner decided he wanted out and opened up a storefront on Broadway; a couple of years later the store moved out to East Vancouver, on Grandview Highway, and the location became a staple in B.C.'s model train scene ever since.

But not for much longer. At 71, Kinsey says his health is catching up with him.

"My body is saying get out now before you kill yourself, and that's basically all it is," Kinsey tells Vancouver Is Awesome. "I'm going to miss the customers, I'm going to miss the business, I'm going to miss it all, but I need to get out."

The plan is to be done with the store by the end of spring. What that looks like is a little uncertain; he's hired an agent to sell the business and if that doesn't happen by May 31 he'll use an auction house to sell off Central Hobbies' inventory.

"If no one has bought the place by the end of May I will shut the store down," he says.

'I'd like to see it carry on'

The inventory mostly caters to the model train crowd, but he also sells to the film industry and anyone who needs to build props or paint models.

For fans of trains, Kinsey's shop has been an important spot over the years, especially as other shops close up in the city.

"I've enjoyed it, it's not a major responsibility, but I guess maybe it is since I'm the only one left," he says. "Obviously I hope somebody does buy it because I'd like to see it carry on, but I'm not going to bring this stuff home."

That's leaving his regulars saddened in the hobby community.

"They're not happy, but they don't blame me," he says, noting some know about his health struggles. A group of them even volunteered time last month to help do inventory at the shop.

It's been the site of some fun stories, too. Like a few years back when noted model train enthusiast and massive rock star Rod Stewart stopped by to check out the shop.

And two of Kinsey's long-time employees, who've been working for him since the early 90s, met at the store and eventually married.

"It's been fun, but, like, I said, I just need out," he says.


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