Bayshore Hobbies has been a lot of things in the last 33 years — not least of all, a haven for nerdy kids to escape schoolyard bullies.
"They’d come here and it would be safe," says Rose Kriedemann, the owner. "No one would beat the hell out of them."
But after this week, Westdale Secondary kids will need to look for refuge somewhere else. So will families who bought their kids’ (and grandkids’) first board games there. On Saturday, Bayshore Hobbies is shutting its doors for good.
'This is my world, man.'—Robin Armstrong, longtime customer
It wasn’t an easy decision, Kriedemann says. That much is clear on Thursday afternoon when the store is packed, and tearful goodbyes are mumbled during long hugs between Kriedemann and customers at the cash.
"Thank you very much for being my customer," she says to one, earnestly. "Thanks for being my customer even though you haven’t actually shopped in 15 years," she says to another, less earnestly.
The store has been a fixture in Westdale for decades. Kriedemann started the business after leaving Cayuga, where she worked in the post office. "I figured if I’m going to make minimum wage, I might as well work for myself," she says. Luckily, her dad owned a hobby shop and gave her all the stuff he couldn’t sell.
Killed by the internet
Doubts about the store’s future really started creeping in about three years ago. "It’s really hard," she says. "I’ve been waffling on it."
The shelves are lined with board and card games like Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer, alongside classics like Mad Gab and Battle of the Sexes. There are figurines, busts, beads and a host of collectables. They once sold well, Kriedemann says. Then the internet came.
"It’s harder to get people to do those things now," she says. "That’s because we’re all attached to the internet," one customer chimes in.
He’s not kidding. There was a time that Kriedemann’s shelves would be full of anime. "But as soon as you could download a video without getting a virus, that was it," she says. Gaming book sales slumped when .pdf’s started surfacing online, too. Times changed, and many people just preferred video games to board games or model trains.
The internet also brought a new breed of customer to Bayshore Hobbies – one that Kriedemann isn’t terribly fond of. One guy keeps coming in and saying, "Hasn’t Amazon put you out of business yet?" She has a special sign for him. It’s all pink, and reads simply "f—k off."
Others just scan the barcodes of her products to look for them online. They don’t buy anything.
"If you want it for $12.99, stay in your basement and use the internet. Don’t come in here," she says. "Don’t make me even wash the floors you walked on."
'It's just time'
Those stories might make Kriedemann sound gruff — but she’s anything but. Marg Bridge’s kids were brought up on toys and games from Bayshore Hobbies. "She gave so much — to Westdale and to us," Bridge says. "I’m just here to buy whatever she’s got for the grandkids."
Bridge’s son, Alastair, is in the store with her. He first stepped in the shop as a toddler. "It just has so many good memories," he says.
Robin Armstrong is another longtime customer, coming to say his goodbyes. "Why wouldn’t I like it here?" he asks. "Honestly, it’s easier to say why not."
"This is my world, man."
But the shop isn’t going out without a bang. On Saturday, Bayshore Hobbies will be the site of a barbeque, party and massive sale (most everything in the store is already 40 per cent off).
Kriedemann is focusing on her European board game distribution company, and that eases the pain, some. The closure might be hard, but she’s ready.
"It’s better to end on a high note," she says.
"It’s just time."