Tony’s Hobby Shop celebrates 70 years
Gerald Stanz spoke on the history of Tony’s Hobby Shop in Coplay.
“My dad started this in 1947, and it’s been in the family ever since,” he said of the business, celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
In 2015, the store was recognized as the oldest single-owner hobby shop in Pennsylvania. Anton “Tony” Stanz, Gerald’s dad, ran the store until 2012 when he died at 97.
“He got the hobby bug back in the ’30s. He saved a few gum wrappers and a few pennies to get plans for a balsa airplane,” Stanz said.
Tony concentrated on airplane models and took to competitive model flying, where he earned a host of trophies and accolades. Before he opened the store at Second and Center streets, it was Steve’s Pool Hall — a hangout for Coplay boys in the 1940s. Tony ran the shop while working at Western Electric. His wife ran it during the day, and Tony picked up the evening shift.
“We have a unique blend of customers,” Stanz said. “Some of the older ones have interesting careers. George Pavelko bought rockets from the shop and wound up being a navigator on Air Force One.”
One regular worked on the Manhattan Project.
Regular customers show up at the shop from Philadelphia and New York.
“They hear about the shop and want to come by,” he said.
“Kids have gotten away from building models with all the electronics around,” Stanz said. “But there is something to be said for developing the mechanical skills and patience required to put together a model. And the skills these kids develop serve them well into the future.”
Model trains continue to be a top seller.
“We do a brisk business in train repair,” he said.
Marlo Mickey is the repair expert. Mickey has a customer list designed to impress. He worked on model trains owned by Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.
“He’s the best in the business,” Stanz said. “I’m lucky to have him as a friend.”
The parts guy is Tim Lubenski, a 50-year customer who can find anything.
A market that continues to grow is radio-controlled aircraft. While Tony competed in the field in the 1930s, the fascination has grown from winged planes to drones.
“Aviation is something that never stops being a fascinating hobby,” Stanz said.
It worked for him as he learned to fly helicopters in New York City.
Rockets are getting more sophisticated and attracting more hobbyists to investigate how they work.
Browsing the shelves for a specific model to build can be a fascinating tour. The models range from World War II fighting machines from both sides of the war to jets and spaceships.
“We have great ship models that we get a demand for,” Stanz said. “One guy came in looking for a Chinook model C because that’s what he flew in Vietnam.”
Sometimes it takes a bit to look for parts, but they are there, tucked away in a remote corner of the shop.
Stepping into the shop is like taking a trip back in time to when the store owner guided your purchase based on what you were looking for.
“We run our business on a handshake with customer service that isn’t a product of some customer-focused research team,” Stanz said. “Need help? You see me.”