BC Shaver and Hobbies store hangs it up after 50 years

BC Shaver and Hobbies, a downtown retail fixture born just over 50 years ago from one boy’s delinquency, is for sale with the owner looking to retire.

Garnett Rancier, 55, owner of the shop and its Fort Street building, wants to sell the whole business and its entire inventory: model trains, radio-controlled aircraft, boats and cars, working model rockets, wooden ship models, and hundreds and hundreds of plastic models of all kinds along with all the paints and tools to put them together.

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“It’s been a great life and it’s a wonderful product,” said Rancier. But “I would like to spend more time with my wife, travelling and just being outside fishing, golfing, anything.”

He said the shop with its combination of shavers and hobby supplies owes its genesis to a Victoria boy who made some trouble in the 1950s. The father told his son he had to pay for the damage and to sell his electric train set to raise the money. To make the sale happen the father asked his friend, the owner of a local shaver shop, to put the train in the shop window.

It generated so much interest from passersby and customers that the shop owner decided to stock more train sets and the hobby operation took off.

Rancier said that was the story always told by his father, Bob, the fourth owner of the shop.

Long forgotten is the name of the boy who had to give up his train set or details of his mischief. “I’ve always kind of hoped I would meet him one day and just thank him,” he said.

The original shop began in 1952 on Broad Street and moved twice before Rancier’s father bought it in 1962.

It settled in 1989 at 742 Fort St., where it still resides.

Rancier bought it from his father and said it’s now the oldest hobby shop in Canada. Also, where it was once one of 18 such shops on Vancouver Island, it is now one of three: Scott’s Toys and Hobbies in Duncan, NRC Hobby Shop in Nanaimo and BC Shaver and Hobbies.

Unlike many hobby shops, it has always maintained a wide range of items. And shavers have always backed up the hobbies.

Rancier said the combo is not as unlikely as it might appear.

It’s mostly men who buy shavers and, if they like them, they hang on to them, keeping them repaired and refitted. It’s also mostly men who enjoy plastic model tanks, radio-controlled planes and electric trains.

On the other hand, shavers remain Rancier’s biggest selling single item. About 25 per cent of business is generated from one glass counter.

The specialized hobby paints and other supplies used to assemble models and train-set landscapes, bring in more money than the models and trains. Like the shavers, they occupy much less floor space than the models.

Rancier doesn’t build models, use train sets or pursue any of the hobbies to which he caters. For him it’s always been a business.

He believes that is part of the shop’s long-standing success. Rancier said he has seen too many hobby shops die because the wide range of public tastes was ignored in favour of the owner’s own particular interests. It might be model jet planes over model tanks or one particular size and scale of train or radio-controlled cars over boats or aircraft.

The product lines have provided a unique customer base, he said. Customers are always cheerful because they are pursuing their own unique passion. They are tourists, repeat customers from overseas, well-paid local professionals or welfare clients who put down $10 and take three months to pay for a single model.

“And everybody who comes in is happy,” said Rancier. “They aren’t coming in because their washing machine or dishwasher has broken down and they need a new one.”

“We have an enjoyable product, a wonderful product,” he said. “It’s fun.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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