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Hobbytown USA: New Business Hopes to Fill Void

by and on March 31, 2013 5:45 PM

As a proud graduate of Penn State University, Brian Warnaka noticed there was a void in Happy Valley. He felt that Centre County lacked a true hobby shop — so he decided to take matters into his own hands, so to speak.

Warnaka is the owner of HobbyTown USA, which is located in the Benner Pike Shops. “I recognized there was a need, an opening, an opportunity because there wasn't one here,” he said. “I finished up a 32-year career and was looking for the next phase, so I decided to do this.”

Warnaka, who is originally from Erie, opened the shop a little over a month ago. According to Warnaka, the response to the new store has been strong. “The response has been really incredible. Everyone who comes in says there's nothing like this around here. I've gotten a lot of well-wishes for long-term success. It's been positive, very positive.”

The inside of Warnaka's shop is a dream come true for any hobby enthusiast. There are model planes, trains, race tracks and rockets. There are different type of glues and paints. There are also toys — everything from Nerf products to Rubik's Cubes.

Warnaka said he wants the store to be well-rounded. “We're a little bit of everything. The business plan is to be a beginner-intermediate hobby store,” Warnaka explained. “We have some educational things, including games. We want to be that beginner-to-intermediate place to come to learn about a hobby and then get started.”

According to Warnaka, his love to hobbies began as a young boy. As he got older, he never lost his passion for them. He still tries different things from time to time. “I'm a hobby fan. Right now, my sons and I do (radio-controlled) airplanes, but I've done models, trains … I like rockets. I'm versed in a lot of the different hobbies. Not all, but a lot,” Warnaka said.

Warnaka's youngest son is a student at Penn State. He also has family in the area, which made State College the perfect location for a HobbyTown USA franchise. “It was all part of the strategy,” Warnaka said.

In a day and age where the Internet has created a lot of empty storefronts, Warnaka is hopeful that HobbyTown USA will attract hobby enthusiasts who are looking for face-to-face contact with someone who is knowledgeable about their favorite pursuits.

“It is definitely a challenge in today's electronic world. You don't have to search very far on the Internet to see what pricing is out there. A brick-and-mortar store can't compete on that level. What I want to try and do is to offer customer service. Somebody can buy the product and if they have a problem, here I am. That's my business plan and I hope that's what will make the difference,” Warnaka said.

During the first month he's been opened, Warnaka has talked to many different customers. Each and every one has different needs, he said. “No one area has stood out as people wanting more,” Warnaka said. “There have been general 'Hey, are you going to get more into …' The answer to that is yes. I chose this inventory with the help of HobbyTown's main office. What I have here should be appealing to almost everyone. We'll see what kind of responses I get and we will adjust accordingly. I'm looking forward to that,” Warnaka said.

According to its website, HobbyTown USA has more than 160 stores in the United States. Warnaka owns the local franchise. “They're pretty well-known,” he said.

HobbyTown USA is open seven days a week. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call (814) 237-3808 or email [email protected]

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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