DAY FOUR – What I learned from Jim Martin

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.

One thought on “DAY FOUR – What I learned from Jim Martin”

  1. Apparently something you didn’t learn from Jim Martin… How important that shop was to the company. But I’m sure you’re just counting down the days until a deal with one of the Big Two goes through anyways…

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