Come January 19, the model trains will stop in their tracks, the plastic figurines put to bed in their boxes. After 67 years in business, Dave’s Hobby Central in downtown Santa Barbara — which has changed hands and names a few times over the decades — will close its doors for good.
The West Anapamu Street store, said current owner Vernon Morseman, was put under by a beleaguered economy, an unwise shift toward specialty items, and a City Hall that cares little about the health and success of small businesses. “The city is run by people that don’t know that they just don’t know,” he claimed. “You always feel like a salmon swimming upstream.”
Morseman, who also owns and operates Ventura Hobbies on Johnson Drive in Ventura, pointed specifically to the 20 parking spaces in nearby City Lot #5 that have been co-opted for the Victoria Hall renovation. He said access to his store has been unfairly limited, and that requests to paint the curb on his side of Anapamu — yellow for loading and unloading, or green for 15-minute parking — have fallen on deaf ears. (Similar parking complaints made by Morseman’s commercial neighbors can be found here.) “They’ve turned it into a cookie cutter town with big chains,” he went on. “Santa Barbara looks like everywhere else now.”
Dave’s Hobby Central had been operated by Dave Wyckoff for the last six years, but Morseman stepped back into the picture December 31 when it became clear there was no saving the business. “I had to sit down and make really hard decisions,” Morseman said. “Looking through clear eyes, I realized it’s time to semi-retire. I simply don’t have enough staff to run that store.” Morseman will continue on with Ventura Hobbies, and whatever merchandise the S.B. location doesn’t sell before January 19 will be moved there. Morseman first started working at the Santa Barbara store in the mid-1970s with the original owner, Tom Atkins. Back then it was called Atkins Hobbies.
Under Wycoff’s watch, Morseman noted, the store became more of a specialty shop that focused on radio controls cars and airplanes instead of offering general hobby items. “Radio control customers don’t support you for the long-term,” Morseman explained. “The moms helping their kids with school projects, the modelers — those are the customers that sustain you. It’s about catering the best you can to the largest group of customers.”
While Morseman had more than a few choice words about issues he sees with city government, he made it a point to thank all his customers over the years. “We had a great run,” he said. “It’s time to say thank you to all the Santa Barbara customers. It’s been fun. We’ve enjoyed it.”