Category Archives: Hobby Express

Just say the word “Drone” and imaginations runs wild.. Since I acquired Hobby Lobby, International (now Hobby Express) the Radio Control industry has enjoyed about five complete cycles of technology revolution. As exciting as it is, my team never lost focus on the pilot who was also an expert builder, dedicated to the craftsmanship required to build one of our airplanes. The shift to mass produced craft commonly called “drones” expanded access and inspired a lot of commercial applications for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (“UAV”). Right out of the box, even a micro drone offers integrated HD video and it’s so easy to fly that everyone wants one for a birthday or Christmas gift. That’s all great – right – but it’s no challenge and you don’t really learn much about the technology and systems behind the vehicle. Is this an opportunity lost? Jobs are being created to fly drones that serve commercial needs and there is a national awareness that we need to be more competitive in Science, Technology and Math. We are pleased to see Model Airplane News recognized this opportunity in education. The interest in building remote control aircraft is resurging. Large fixed wing platforms like the Telemaster are widely recognized for their instrumentation carry capacity, as well as their inexpensive and reliable flight dynamics. Today we release the Kickstarter campaign that creates the ideal STEM curriculum for three innovative educational experiences designed around the Telemaster platform. The high school student near you could be participating in a “Supply Chain Management” course, learning about “Building, Power Systems and Flight Engineering” and imagine their excitement for a hands on “Product Innovation and Design” course using this real world topic. It’s something they can influence and even FLY when they complete the proper course. If you’re inspired like I am, consider letting your imagination run wild for a minute to support our launch and make sure there is no opportunity lost.

Mr. Winston in front of an Alexander Eaglerock.
My Great Aunt Marjorie Winston Parker has been gathering old photos helping me to better understand our rather distinguished family heritage in aviation.  

Like my grandma, Marjorie was a true aviation pioneer.  Her father was Grandmother’s flight instructor and of course, taught his daughter to fly too, sparking a passion for flight that lead her to become a stunt pilot!
A larger photo of the Alexander Eaglerock. The plane has a tiger painted on the side — it was the mascot for the College of Pacific flight school.
“One of the photos shows my dad in the cockpit,” Marj says, referring to the photo on the right “…and a guy he hired to help with flight instruction standing outside. I don’t know that guy’s name.”  So maybe that’s the new mystery.  Who is that guy?

While I was asking about the several different fantastic airplanes Aunt Marj owned and flew, I learned she owned a Citabria stunt airplane!  How about that?  It’s a stunningly beautiful and powerful aircraft! She explained the roots of Citabria’s name, “It’s airbatic spelled backwards.”  She went on to describe the rolls and flight maneuvers she pulled over the criss crossing, perfectly straight California farm roads, far below. Marj is modest about her stunt flying days.  After she sold her Citabria she acquired several other mouthwatering sky chariots. 

When I approach 90, I would like to be in the razor sharp condition that my Aunt Marj is in today.  She is an inspiration for me and I hope by sharing these tidbits, my daughters will appreciate her more.  It’s a bonus that I get to share this with friends, as well as aviation buffs who are Hobby Express customers! CEO, Mark Cleveland sent his comments on the Amazon Drone Express announcement:

I was traveling to Texas when the Charlie Rose segment on ’60 Minutes’ featuring Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ PrimeAir, drone delivery vision caused a sensation. I found this, together with subsequent coverage by mainstream media to be entertaining. Offensive, but entertaining.

Why is this news? Drones could add $13.6 Billion to to the US economy in three years? Ridiculous.

One critical story in USA Today by Rem Rieder was appropriately sarcastic of Rose for his fawning all over the fantasy of Drone Express. Unfortunately, it was buried on page 5B, while the front page highlighted the illegal use of drones as an entrepreneurial opportunity, and oversimplified (if not ignored) issues worth exploring.

As the CEO and owner of Hobby Lobby International, my company has been a pioneer in radio control aircraft. For 50 years, this company set new standards for electric flight. We are happy to be in the multi-rotor “drone” business, but the idea that a network of drones could be the foundation for a delivery network at Amazon is comical. We sell the propellers and manufacture the eRC brand motors, servos and electronic speed controllers preferred by multi-rotor hobbyists and commercial clients. As a service, we build and train operators of multi-rotor platforms for movie producers mentioned in the article. We sell electronics and parts to government contractors who build public safety drones.

Next time Charlie Rose, call for some expert commentary.

The media is silent about the basis for the FAA rules that prohibit the very commercial, for-hire entrepreneurship featured and glamorized by these stories. There is no basis for a $13.6 billion dollar economic impact from drones and no reason to believe drone delivery is practical at all? Where is the story about the FAA and AMA (American Modeling Association) working with industry professionals to protect the sport of flying recreational model aircraft, supporting education in the face of terrorism concerns, safety issues and obvious practical obstacles to a sky filled with drones?

Before I bought Hobby Lobby, I enjoyed a career in transportation and logistics services. America’s largest trucking fleets and truck stop operators bought a wide range of products and support services from the organizations I was proud to be part of. From freight matching to safety and compliance programs, from liability and cargo insurance to expedited document imaging and information processing. From that perspective, as a transportation professional, the Amazon Drone Express story and its treatment is appalling. I am offended for my friends in that industry whose contribution to the economy is diminished by the shallow treatment of this drone topic. These are the companies who actually deliver products for Amazon! Billions of economic value contributed daily…

I helped launch a marine transportation company that was honestly innovative and disruptive, it was honestly news worthy. Where was “60 Minutes” when SeaBridge was trying to change the world? I’m offended.

Yes, now I’m mad. Charlie, don’t bother calling. Maybe I’m testy because I’m still in Texas as I write this. Stuck in Dallas in an ice storm. No delivery drone could get me out of here, but I have a few friends in transportation who could.

December 9, 2013
Media contact information below
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Buys Brand Names from Hobby Lobby International OKLAHOMA CITY — Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately held retail chain with more than 550 arts and crafts stores in 46 states, today announced it has acquired from Family Time Hobbies, LLC, the holding company for Hobby Lobby International, Inc., all of Hobby Lobby International’s  interest in the trademarks and brand names “Hobby Lobby” and “Hobby Lobby International.”

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Hobby Lobby International have co-existed and simultaneously used the brand “Hobby Lobby” amicably for more than 40 years. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.’s decision to acquire Hobby Lobby International’s interest in the “Hobby Lobby” and “Hobby Lobby International” brand names follows many years of growth of both parties and a desire to further distinguish the brands as e-commerce and social media continue to expand. 

Hobby Lobby International operates a 50-year-old hobby store in Nashville, Tennessee and an e-commerce site that sells radio control airplanes, helicopters, cars, boats and other hobby products.

As a result of the acquisition, Hobby Lobby International will continue doing business as Hobby Express”.

“As my company celebrates our golden anniversary of the brand’s founding in 1964, we’re excited to continue the tradition of providing innovative products and exemplary service to the tens of thousands of customers who have shopped our store,” said Mark Cleveland, CEO of Hobby Express (formerly Hobby Lobby International). “We’ll be the same company with a new name as we move boldly into the future.”

“We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Hobby Lobby International’s interest in the ‘Hobby Lobby’ and ‘Hobby Lobby International’ brands, and we enthusiastically support their transition to the ‘Hobby Express’ brand name,” said David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. “We admire their 50 years of exemplary customer service and are excited for the continued growth and success of Hobby Express.”

Hobby Express will continue operating its store located in Nashville and selling radio control airplanes, helicopters, cars, boats and other hobby products online at the new URL of

To learn more about Hobby Lobby, visit

To learn more about Hobby Express, visit

About Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Based in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby and its affiliate Hemispheres employ more than 22,900 individuals nationwide. Hobby Lobby was founded by David Green in 1972. The company has grown from one 700-square-foot store to more than 550 locations in 46 states. Hobby Lobby carries no long-term debt, is open only 66 hours per week and is closed on Sundays. For more information, visit

Mark Cleveland, HLI (Left) and David Green, HLS (Right)
About Hobby Express

For 50 years, Hobby Express has delivered the best model hobby products, from radio control airplanes, helicopters, cars and boats, trains and track landscaping, together with tools, paints and accessories, to customers around the world. Our catalog, website and store in Nashville, Tenn., offer any hobby enthusiast the information and technical support needed with top quality products delivered at very competitive prices. For more information, visit


Media Contacts:
Anthony Triana (Saxum for Hobby Lobby) – 405.605.2003 or

Nikki Trojanowski (Dittoe PR for Hobby Express) – 317.202.2280 x.25 or


I walked the trade show floor at the iHobby Expo in Chicago last week. The show opened on October 21st and because it was my second year attending, I couldn’t help but notice how different my experience was this year compared to last. 

Naturally, a couple of years in the hot fire and brimstone of this economy, working inside a little hobby distribution company, trying to reinvent yourself in a fast moving market… can teach a guy a thing or two. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was the same old “kid in a candy store” walking the show floor packed with trains, slot cars, cool toys and “stuff” — but this year I had a lot better eye for good candy, and the BAD CANDY just jumped out at me… like the freaky lady handing out carmel covered apples for Halloween, it’s bad candy — and like bad hobby products — just not worth it. 

Last year the industry was down. This year, hobby shop owners and managers were definitely in a better mood and we are all looking forward to what’s next. Not that we have a choice – we’re entrepreneurs – that’s what we do, but I love optimistic people nonetheless.

Last year there were a lot of companies from China demonstrating new and untested product. This year there were a lot of new and untested “distributors” demonstrating still unproven products from China. 

Last year, every RC car looked awesome and cool. This year I could see and appreciate quality. You could see it in new RC car product from Traxxas, the new Electrix Truck and an awesome rock crawler from Red Racing. Everything else looked like a collection of unimaginative, copy cat cars from China; a parts supply nightmare looking for a place to happen. I started out as a consumer. I joined a team of experts and hired a few more. Together we moved mountains, redeveloped our retail store, opened an RC car race track and birthday event center, created the eRC product line and a lot more. In that transition and with that experience, I there is no question the American consumer needs a hobby shop to help them sort through small mountains of “good looking” stuff. Helping a customer purchase the honestly good stuff — is an honorable thing to do with your time. 

Last year we had just launched the revolution in thrust vectoring EDF jets with the SU 34 and RC pilots wanted to fly our multi-award winning jets. Last year, our new eRC product line was still “top secret” and with awesome products in the pipeline it drove us crazy to keep that under wraps. A few select, specialty hobby shops carry these products now, because their walk-in customer is asking for it. We have been demonstrating, promoting and shipping the all new Micro Stik, a beautiful B-25 Apache Princess, a line of entirely new eRC motors — and now the F/A 18 E Super Hornet is flying out our dock doors. These products deliver on our quality promise — so this hobby shop owner feels a lot better about business this year too.

This year, hobby shop owners were alarmed and concerned about the loss of yet another vendor; old line hobby products distributor, ACE Hobby, which recently closed their doors. Maybe it was a wake up call. Dealers are apparently going through a mental calculation and growing uneasy about how limited their options are for sourcing new and imaginative products. I heard someone say, “… There goes one more line, consumed by Hobbico…” commenting on the immediate price increase for Thunder Tiger products. I found myself thinking, as a hobby shop owner, that Hobbico does a good job for my little retail store — we just don’t do that much business with them. 

On Thursday night in the hotel sports bar, a dozen hobby shop owners, Debra Love and others on my team watched my Alma Mater, the University of Oregon (GO DUCKS) put on a clinic for a national television audience. It was an offensive show and general beat down of UCLA. We all had a blast, we all cheered (for a team few knew existed) and I felt like a part of the industry. These are wonderful people. Things are looking up. We can all have fun doing what we do. Yes indeed, this year, the iHobby Show was a lot better than last year.

Any telling of our experience in these last twelve months would not be complete without recognizing Jim Martin. 

Like many of you, we have a collection of Hobby Lobby catalogs. Some feature our founder, Jim Martin, on the cover, or on the flight line and always presenting “The Best Stuff” of the day — year in and year out — for over 40 years. Just flipping through these classic mail order catalogs is a walk down memory lane (in case you have an extra copy in your collection, we are missing Catalog #2 and Catalog #10) and each page helps me appreciate where we are today…

After selling this company to a private equity firm about five years ago, Jim engaged me as a management training consultant for the team at Hobby Lobby. Years later, a majority of that team was still on the job when an opportunity to buy Hobby Lobby presented itself in early 2009. I enjoy working with that same group of people today. 

Jim Martin built his vision for a hobby company many years before Hobbico and Tower came together to become that goliath operation you know today, and a full twenty years before Horizon was created. Today, we’re recognized as the number three player for hobby airplane design, distribution and direct retail channel sales in the U.S., but Hobby Lobby is just a little campfire in Nashville compared to these two, “towering infernos” in Champaign. Good companies, very focused on growth and indeed they are corporate giants today, but that was not the model Jim had in mind. 

He flew refueling tankers during his service in the Air Force which must have given him the nerves of steel required to start his own business in Nashville. As Jim’s passion for RC airplanes grew, so did his hobby shop and family business. Jim returned to Europe frequently and discovered some of the coolest RC stuff on the planet. He made many friends and drank the local brew with modelers, engineers and craftsmen producing high quality, cutting edge products. Well before it was cool, Jim and Hobby Lobby were first in electric flight. Committed to his vision to be the best, not the biggest, he developed long term partnerships with Axi Motors, Jeti and Graupner among other fine manufacturers, and Hobby Lobby became known for offering the Best Stuff. Everything was flight tested, quality tested and backed by an amazing technical staff. That’s exactly who we are today — it’s in our DNA.

Famous for delivering the best catalog in the world of modeling, we mailed his copy of Catalog #52 and I last talked to Jim in December when extending a personal invitation to our grand opening celebration of the new hobby store. We might not see him very often, but you can’t mistake the roots deeply planted.

One year after jumping into the pilot’s seat at Hobby Lobby, I have an even more healthy respect for Jim Martin.

In the first few weeks after we announced Hobby Lobby had a new owner, I got several calls and lots of advice from people honestly interested in our success. Today, we can see the seeds from that feedback which contributed to our experience this year.

My biggest concern at the time was this lingering notion that the RC hobby is aging fast. Industry research, surveys and a snap shot of our own customer base confirmed my fear. 

What is the path to a healthy future for this modeler’s hobby?

I have no magic answer, but I know that we get back only a measure of what we put into any challenge. Perhaps we should set a goal to be more proactive and involved with the AMA, but that idea was quickly pushed off the flight line by every day business issues.

Then I got a call from Mark Smith, a retired Sprint executive, dedicated modeler and a volunteer AMA board member. Because he reached out to me, he made it easier for us to get involved and that’s why we credit this lesson to Mark.

From his home in Kansas City, Mark drove to Nashville to walk me through industry research, introduce me to the work of the AMA Marketing Committee and invite me to participate. This was special, like a visit from a neighbor bearing gifts when you first move into a new home; you’re too busy unpacking to be as gracious as you want to be… Still, when you are the new guy on the block, it’s that experience helping you appreciate how important it is to be welcoming to others. 

The path to a healthy hobby is simple: be welcoming. “Welcome to the industry” — my first experience with the AMA. “Welcome to Hobby Lobby” — our first words every time someone enters our new retail store. “Welcome to our flying field” — the all important greeting from a club member who sees an unfamiliar face and helps them wrestle that park flyer out of the box. 

The best ambassadors for this hobby and most important customers for any hobby store are the 150,000 AMA members. 

How and with whom you spend your time and money is the future playing itself out — one purchase at a time. 

Because hobby store employees struggle to find time to mind the store and train customers too, that’s your opportunity to be proactive, to organize and volunteer time providing skills training that makes a difference and new friends too. 

As I welcome more customers to Hobby Lobby, it gets easer to see that path to a bright future: It’s you.

Outside of the “insiders” at Hobby Lobby, the first person in the industry who knew I was buying this business was Jim Bourke. 

The RC Groups forum and community that Jim created was, in my mind, one of the most amazingly simple and artful examples of web marketing — done right. I had heard the story about Hobby Lobby as the first significant advertiser, the early adopter and long term creative partner. 

Jim Bourke was at the center of the RC community: the right guy to bounce around ideas. 

Hobby Lobby was and remains an active sponsor. Our consistent commitment to RC Groups made it feel right that I was on my way to Corvallis Oregon to meet the man. I grew up 90 miles away in Eugene Oregon. As a rabid Duck fan, my only worry was discovering he was an equally rabid Beaver fan and that things might get ugly… 

As it turned out, he’s the kind of guy who could keep a confidence. We devoured a full boat of Sushi and talked about the acquisition, the market and how our hobby was changing… 

We talked about his prize Russian Thunder — the only Yak-54 currently flying in the U.S. and his passion for aerobatic flight. We finished lunch and checked out the 1/4 scale model of his Yak-54 (he was rebuilding it after a crash) and we chatted with all the development guys at Knife Edge Software. I had a copy of their flight simulator back home and was finally getting comfortable with frequently crashing on my big screen. 

Through Jim’s eyes I could see Hobby Lobby as a company that has clearly established itself as an innovator in the hobby. When you’re buying something, particularly when it’s something REALLY BIG like Hobby Lobby (or even something simple like purchasing one of our cool new airplanes) it’s nice to confirm the story that you heard is the real deal. Someone authoritative, someone like JIm, was in a great place to confirm the reputation of this business. He helped me see how the RC community values quality. 

I appreciated his confirmation that modelers prefer to talk to and do business with modelers — and Hobby Lobby employees are, nearly every single one of them, sick in the head, super scale detail, perfectionist modelers. Yep, almost every one – sick like genius. They ARE experts. The idea that we know what modelers want, came to life. 

I came back to Tennessee more confident, thanks to Jim. And thanks to Jim, the legacy of innovation, focus on quality and our reputation for providing the best products rang true. I see it every day now, but I don’t want to ever forget how great it felt to become a believer — to better understand it — through Jim Bourke’s eyes.

Today is my anniversary. One year ago today — which is a very long time, but it honestly feels like yesterday – I closed on the deal to buy Hobby Lobby International: my next adventure in business. 

Not just because of the down economy everyone talks about, but based on the fast changing hobby itself, it was a very challenging year for our clients, our suppliers and our dealer partners. Together, we all rose to the occasion. 

My experience has been nothing short of a thrill ride. At times, something closer to the ride you get from a jet jockey at the local air show… that pilot trying to get you to barf for sport… regardless, what a terrific life experience! 

For the past few days, folks at the Hobby Lobby have been taking note for the occasion. I thought long and hard about this year in review. What would I say when there is so much to say?

So, rather than use my words, I plan to note the advice, observations and coaching I got from the many industry icons and outstanding customers, employees (and bankers) who generously gave me priceless support throughout my first full year at the helm of this company. A company that is, quite simply, a very special place. 

I discovered, through their eyes, how to fully appreciate the unique position the team at Hobby Lobby has carved out over the last 44 years. Tomorrow, I will share what I learned from Jim Bourke, President and Super Cool Dude at RC Groups. Each subsequent day, I’ll share personal notes here in our forum, paying tribute to people on that long list of friends, observers, customers and competitors. 

It’s more important than my experience. It’s your experience that counts. This will be fun!