Hobbies are taking on a new importance during the pandemic, and Warrenton Hobby Shoppe is working toward fulfilling creative new (for kids) or nostalgic (for parents) ways for families to come together.
Story and Photos by Lindsay Hogeboom
A short time ago, if you were to ask Wes McCarville and Lori Gibson how they pictured their future, running a hobby shop on Main Street would not have been on the list. But as small towns have a way of doing, the community and friendships McCarville and Gibson found in Warrenton brought them an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
How It Began
When McCarville moved to Warrenton a year and a half ago, the first person he met was Burrell Spindel. “I went to Molly’s on a Tuesday night for trivia,” says McCarville. “I [was] just sitting up there…all by myself, and he’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to come join us over here?’ He introduced himself and him and I [have been] best friends since then.”
Spindel owned hobby shops for more than 30 years, including one of Fauquier County’s premier hobby shops, Virginia Hobbies Etc. At the beginning of 2020, Spindel began to experience some health issues that left him unable to continue to run his shop. McCarville explains, “He came to me and said, ‘Hey, Wes, do you want to buy the store?’” Although McCarville did not have experience in the hobby industry or as a business owner, he was interested in the opportunity and committed to fulfilling the duties of his friendship in any way he could. “I had always told Burrell [that] he’s my best friend, I’ve always got his back, and I’d take care of him,” he says, “and so I was intent to make good on that promise.”
In May 2020, McCarville and Gibson officially fulfilled that promise by purchasing the shop, now known as Warrenton Hobby Shoppe, where Spindel continues to be employed. Gibson says, “We wanted to make sure that his legacy continued, that he was provided for, and we wanted to be a part of the main street community, so we were grateful to do that with him and for him.”
Fostering Family Fun and Tradition
Now that McCarville and Gibson are running the shop, they have become fully immersed in the hobby industry. “It’s fun, because we learn a lot,” says Gibson. One of her personal favorite specialties has become the model kits, including model cars, planes, and boats. “People come in looking for a specific model kit, and they’re very, very passionate about it. It’s a tie back to their past. Someone will come in, like, ‘I remember doing that with my dad,’ so they want to pass that on to their kids. I think for me, that’s interesting. It’s the stories that they come in with, and the legacy and the stories that they want to leave for their families.”
Other popular aspects of the business that McCarville and Gibson have grown to know and love are games, puzzles, and radio-controlled (RC) cars, boats, and planes. “We’ve been trying to do little things that are going to differentiate us from big chain stores,” says McCarville. One of the ways they’ve done that is by hosting events, such as game nights and RC vehicle races. Anyone who has been to Warrenton’s First Friday celebrations has likely been entranced by the RC cars zipping and flipping up and down the road in front of the shop at the RC car racing events. “I mean, how often do you get to run an RC car down the middle of Main Street?” exclaims McCarville. “And the board game nights – we don’t make any money off of that. But what have we done? We’ve built community and we’re connecting people. We’re both very big into that. We want that community. That’s one of the things we love about Warrenton.”
Hobbies Help During COVID
“You know, honestly, for as difficult as it has been for people during [COVID],” says McCarville, “if you’re looking on the bright side of things, I do think this has given people an opportunity to reconnect on a family level.” And what’s better for families stuck at home with time on their hands than taking part in hobbies together? McCarville and Gibson quickly realized that hobbies have taken on a newfound importance during this unprecedented time and have been intentional about offering activities that promote fun and friendship. “That’s why we have a lot of cooperative games,” McCarville says. “A lot of these games, you’ve got to work together to win, and that’s the only way it works. I think that was a strategic move on our part.”
Gibson adds that another benefit of many of the activities the shop provides is that they can take place anywhere – including outside, which gets people out of their houses and into spaces where they can safely socialize at a distance. “The RC cars and planes and boats, they’re great outdoor activities,” she says. “It gets you out, and you can do it in the middle of nowhere.” Gibson also says it’s especially important to have these types of activities during a time when people need to be intentional about doing things that bring them happiness and social connections. “It’s good to see people’s interests and passions being encouraged in a time when they can feel isolated,” she says. “Instead of being isolated, they’re feeling more engaged and more connected.”
Carrying Values Forward
As is apparent from the way McCarville and Gibson’s endeavors with the hobby shop began, fun and friendship are two core values that lie at the heart of their business. “It’s a super small-town hobby shop, where people gather and exchange ideas,” says Gibson. “They’re engaging, and they’re supporting each other. We’re very humbled to be a part of that.”
“I’m happy [about] how things are progressing,” says McCarville. “Long story short, it’s going so well because we have good people that are with us and behind us.” Gibson agrees: “We’re very excited to be part of this community. We have an amazing team, amazing customers and we love our community.”