ADDRESS: 2401 NW Kings Blvd., Corvallis, OR 97330
PHONE NUMBER: 541-753-7540
OWNER: Jim Trump
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 43
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time, 1 part-time
WHAT HE SELLS: Radio control planes, helicopters, cars, and boats; model railroads; toys, games, and puzzles; arts and crafts
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For a wide selection of hobby supplies and the knowledge and expertise of the staff
After more than 40 years and moves to five different Corvallis locations, Jim Trump is still excited about his business. The walls of his shop are covered with an amazing assortment of parts and accessories for model planes and trains, and the shelves are stocked with kits, games, puzzles, and more. As an avid and active model airplane buff, Jim stays up-to-date with the latest items, and he and his 38-year employee, Jim DeBoer, are able to provide experience and support to their customers.
Jim, when and why did you decide to start your business? I was born and raised in LaGrande and graduated from Eastern Oregon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Math and Science. I worked at Battelle Northwest at Hanford for a number of years, doing scientific research on radioactive fuels and structure materials. But then I decided to go back to school to work on a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and that’s what brought me to Corvallis in 1969. I had always liked radio-controlled model airplanes, and it was through my interest in model airplanes that I met Orville Mills. Orville owned Curtis Diaper Service [across the street from University Market on Van Buren Avenue], and he rented me a little space in front of his business. That’s where I opened Trump Hobbies in 1970.
One of the guys I flew with wanted to buy into the business as an investor, and that was when we changed the name to DJ’s Hobbies and moved the shop to Buchanan and Kings. Eventually, I bought him out, moved to a location in the Albertson’s shopping center, and expanded the store to include airplanes, trains, and plastic models. During the oil crisis of the 1970s, we also sold Mopeds. For a time, we sold Kit Cars that you built on a VW chassis. We sold 17 of them.
In the 1980s, we moved to the Plaza 9 Shopping Center, across from OSU Credit Union, and changed the name of the store to Trump’s Hobbies. Our final move was to the Timberhill Shopping Center in 1987. We were one of the first to sign on to this shopping center – before they even broke ground. With each move, it was our customers who moved us. They were so nice! They brought pickups and helped us move everything. For a number of years, our customers also helped us do inventory. We would give each of them a clipboard and an assignment, and, at the end of the day, we’d treat them to a big party. Now, it takes six to eight professionals from 6 am to noon to complete our inventory.
Tell us more about your products. What are your favorites? In addition to model planes and trains, we sell a lot of board games and puzzles. We were one of the first stores to sell Magic The Gathering. I fly model airplanes a lot, so I guess that’s my favorite. But if someone comes into the store and they’re really excited about a product, I get excited about it, too.
Does your business fill an unusual niche? There are no other hobby shops in the area. Our customers come from all over the state – even from Canada.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? The Chinese are flooding the market with a lot of the products I sell. The challenge is knowing what to sell, what to stock. Things are changing so fast that it’s really tough to keep up with the products. We have to judge what’s going to be popular. This store doesn’t fit a standard business model. We have stuff that’s been here for years, and that’s what adds value to the store. The fads come back, and we have all the parts and accessories to support them. I have close to $1 million worth of products in stock.
I’ve seen a lot of hobby shops come and go, but we’ve survived. I’ve had the same employee since 1975. He’s my right-hand man and, between us, we have more than 80 years’ worth of experience.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? It’s the independent businesses that make Corvallis. We get people from all over the world and people who used to live here who come back to visit. They want that personal feel that the independents provide. The future looks good. The local independents will always be here.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? The fun part is dealing with the people. It’s a neat business to be in because people don’t have to come through these doors. They come in because they want to.
What is your relationship to the community? What nonprofits or civic organizations do you support or participate in? Two friends and I started the Model Airplane Club back in the 70s. We developed the area over at the old military facility at Adair Village. It’s county property, and a lot of people use the space for flying model planes. It costs only $50 a year to join the club, and we use that money to support the facility.
We also give donations and supply a lot of auction items to schools and other organizations. We support just about everyone who comes in who has a good cause. I help kids buy yearbooks who can’t afford them.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – November 3, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally-owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance.