Sunday, May 3, 2009


At one time Chicago apparently boasted no less than 18 hobby stores, the greatest number for any city in the US. Today the number has dwindled to maybe five, but one of these is Al’s Hobby Shop which is nearby in downtown Elmhurst, just round the corner from the railroad track that runs straight though the town, and which seems to stop traffic every five minutes!

Al’s was started in 1947, which makes it a run of 62 years so far, not bad for any shop, let alone a hobby shop. There really was an ‘Al’, though he unfortunately died a few years ago, but family members still run the business. Al’s caters for all types of modellers - kits, diecasts, radio-control, boats, planes and cars. Given that the US was built on the railroad, (and one still runs through the town), there is a separate shop next door, just for railroad modelling supplies.

But trends come and go. For many years the static model kit division was just inside the door, and it was radio-control in a side area. Now this is reversed, as the current main interest is radio-control, with a wide range of electric and fuel-powered machines available. However, next year maybe trends will have moved on again...

The pictures show (top) one of Al’s store windows. Inside Al’s (middle), Jeff Clark restocks some kit shelves, and yes, the railroad runs just round the corner from Al’s. You can visit Al's online here.

Mat Irvine