How it all began

“But it was meant to be a hobby!”


Early in 2011, I was telling my daughter that I seemed to be caught up in an endless loop of computer work. As a self-employed photographer and web designer it seemed as if I spent every waking moment hunched over a computer – a typical self-employed scenario. So my daughter and  my wife, suggested that it was time I had a hobby. They thought that I needed a distraction from the daily routine to help me relax.


I’ve had a successful wedding photography business for the last 12 years, with over 25 weddings a year. However, it’s a changing scene these days with the ready availability of digital cameras and too many brides thinking it can’t be hard or expensive just to, “take a few photos”. In any case I was beginning to feel in need of a change.


When visiting my daughter in the Cotswolds, we visited a model shop and were very impressed with a large model railway layout at the back of the shop. Quite a tourist attraction I thought. Could this work in my home town of Nairn where I am already very involved in the local tourism scene? (See I  began to entertain thoughts of setting up a Highland themed railway layout. As my daughter said, it would at least solve the perennial problem of what to buy for Christmas or birthday’s.  I thought it best to keep this new found hobby quiet but began to purchase few things online and only then realised just how many people all across the country are involved in modelling pursuits. I had trained originally as a lab technician and the thought of getting back to using my practical skills grew in appeal. So it was that the idea of a hobby and model shop began to develop.


But it’s one thing having “a good idea”. Did it have any chance of working? It’s a tricky field to research. Most reports only talk about the toy sector in general terms rather than the specifics of hobbies and models. As it happens, just around that time Hornby announced a growth in sales and any research I was able to find indicated that, having slumped for a couple of years, the “toy market” was recovering. So all the available indicators were good.


It does seem strange that in the midst of a recession when many High St shops are closing, that anyone would consider opening a hobby shop – of all things! Aren’t people cutting back? Surely they’ll not be spending money on “frivolities”? Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware of a number of people who quietly enjoy and derive great enjoyment from their hobbies. It’s not often something they speak much about but there is often considerable time invested in hobbies and modelling pursuits. Working creatively brings a sense of fulfilment and achievement for a modest outlay. There is a great sense of pride and in having built something, either from scratch or from a kit. I also get the impression that there is a renewed interest in developing creative skills. Yes, people are cutting back on luxuries but hobbies are a passion and much can be achieved from investing even a small amount in a kit, a model plane or model railway and becoming absorbed in something that, for a time, distracts us from the present challenges of daily living.


Around 10 years ago there had been a very successful model shop in Nairn. I met with the owner who had had to close it for personal reasons –  not because it was a failure. He was very positive as was the bank who checked through the business plan. So if I was to go ahead with the project the remaining piece of the jigsaw would be a shop in a good location. A visit to a local estate agent resulted in him saying that he had been considering other plans and that his very central High St office could be available. Almost without any big decision about whether or not to pursue this new career, all the pieces finally fell into place. In just 2-3 months, I moved from the initial idea to actually opening a hobby and model shop – and the start of a new career.


So much for taking up a hobby – and apologies to my daughter as in the end it hasn’t helped her solve the problem of what to buy for Christmas!