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Meet Louis Lee of J.D. Hobbys

Today we’d like to introduce you to Louis Lee.

Louis, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve been building model kits from the 1960s, I bought some property in the South Bay in 2000, I wanted to build something, tracked down a local hobby shop, 30 days later I purchased three of the sellers’ businesses situated in the strip mall. After 16 1/2 years in business as J.D. Hobbys, I find it absolutely incredible that the traditional brick/mortar hobby shops have all but disappeared! What remains are the chain stores i.e. “Hobby Lobby”, and Hobby Town U.S.A.” We have established a diehard group of regular customers who come in either once a week or once a month. A quick story: A regular patron walks in one day, he is holding a baby carrier, his new born son, he now stands at 6’3″, father and son continue the wonderful tradition of model building in all its forms. That was 16 years ago. J.D. Hobby’s is situated in downtown San Pedro (across the landmark Warner Grand Theatre) at just under 10,000 sq. ft. with 2 lofts upstairs one is dedicated as a History Library (over 8000 titles, and the other loft is referred to as the “Sackheim Collection” he passed some 3 years ago, and leaving me with his vast collection of rockets/planes, (Robert was the lead propulsion engineer for NASAs Space Shuttle Program) We proudly hold Hobby Collectors Expo’s on the U.S.S. Iowa, and the S.S. Lane Victory and the Navy Fleet Week, (Labor Day weekend 4 day event, last year’s event drew 300,000 people, the S.S. Lane Victory Expo will be held Oct. 7th. & 8th. The ongoing mission statement is to engage the young people who by in large have no compelling interest in creating or building a kit. Northrop/Grumman, Space X, Western Museum of Flight are staunch supporters of J.D. Hobby’s they are involved in all of the Expo’s that we present. It is my sincere hope that before my retirement (5) years that we can effectively offer the next generation an outlet in which to enjoy themselves as their parents did before them.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The traditional retail brick-and-mortar hobby industry is being challenged as never before. Hobby stores are fighting for their very survival under the onslaught of the online internet sales juggernaut. The attrition rate for the supplier and retail hobby sector is staggering. Iconic manufacturers such as Floquil Paints (75 years old), 21st Century Planes, and many wholesale distributors to the front-line retail outlets have all become casualties to this ongoing challenge. The irony is that the hobby industry in all its forms continues to enjoy robust sales, immense popularity and demand. The problem is that the internet has almost totally displaced traditional retail outlets and continues its stranglehold on the hobby industry.

The JD Hobby/Tamiya Expo will provide attendees with opportunities that can only be experienced in person. The internet cannot offer the tactile physical experience of holding a 70-yr. old WWII bayonet used on Iwo Jima in your hands, or the smell of a bomber jacket worn in the WWII ETO, or the direct viewing of a set prop used on the original “Alien” movie set. All of this and much more will be available to attendees in one historic location! Many treasures await collectors at all levels, saving them the headache, uncertainty and risk of jumping around and trying to find such items on the internet.

J.D. Hobbys – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We at J.D. Hobby’s pride ourselves in offering “repair/build-up/restoration” of various kits/items i.e. wooden ships, ceramic figurines etc., and of course the buildup of kits that the hobbyist no longer is capable of building or wanting an item that is professionally constructed. Ron Howards Production company approached us several years ago, requesting a 4’x8′ “Lake” they brought in an aerial photograph of the actual lake, all the trees and ground cover to the wooden dock and dory was custom built to 1/48 scale. The end result was indeed quite satisfying. We have customers who come in and state that Toys R Us referred them to come to J.D. Hobby’s, Rite Aid Drug Stores also refer their customers to us I believe that speaks volumes as far as the inventory selection we carry. In various departments, we offer: Sci-fi collectibles, Trains (all scales), over 500 new and older car kits, military items i.e. armor, planes, ships, books, figurines, music dept. books/laps., sport collectibles, vast selection of paints both acrylic/enamel based, comic books, and various hodgepodge of collectibles.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Last year as we approached our 15th. Anniversary, I debated on whether or not to hold a celebration of sorts at the shop. It ended up with70+ invited guests/customers/friends. The co-founder of “Space X” Mr. Tom Mueller has been a dear friend of mine going back some 5 years, even with his busy schedule he somehow manages to find time to participate in our events. The head of Northrop/Grumman’s “Drone or UCAS” system J. Whittenbury, was kind enough to present me with a plaque honoring our 15 years in business, I proudly have it hanging in the library. Mr. M. Ciminera (Sr. V.P. retired Northrop/Grumman) made a wonderful speech and thanking us for supporting the local community as well as pushing forward the hobby genre. To see the number of good people who support the hobby shop, the wonderful friendships that’s been struck along the way is by far my most prideful accomplishment.


  • Over 1000 die cast planes of various types are displayed upstairs priced at $99,00 or less

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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