While businesses like Blockbuster Video and Hudson Board Room are closing up their brick-and-mortar stores to focus on online sales, Bob Bochicchio is taking the opposite approach.
After having success selling model trains online, Bochicchio recently opened up at 250 Main Street in East Setauket with the philosophy that a physical store is still an important advantage to have in business – even though he said he's aware of the risk involved.
"I know that for the first year my internet business is going to support it until I get my name out there," Bochicchio said. "I knew that going in, though. There's a personality that goes along with the store. Instead of dealing with emails, you’re actually talking with customers.”
It's that hands-on experience with the customers that drew Bochicchio to opening the storefront. He hopes to have an impact on his customers, especially the young ones.
"Videogames have taken over kids' lives," Bochicchio said. "Kids don't build anything anymore. I want them to be able to use their hands, to be able to make models. Basically I want them to have a finished product when they're done, something they can be proud of."
For Bochicchio, it's his eight-year-old autistic son who rekindled his interest in the hobby. He saw it as a way to connect with his child and also remember the time he spent with his own father decades ago.
While building his own collection, Bochicchio became acquainted with the online hobby community. It wasn't long before he created an electronic storefront and his house turned into a model train warehouse. After the post-Christmas demand didn't die down, an ultimatum from his girlfriend led to the opening of the physical store.
Bochicchio believes that his store offers something that the competition doesn't. Aside from the knowledge he has of the product, he said stores like Walmart and Toys 'R Us don't sell the same trains and because of that his business can survive.
Even with the domestic economy hurting, Bochicchio said much of his business came from Europe, where the Euro is still strong against the dollar.
Jeff Aston, the owner of across the street from DCB Hobbies, agreed that having a physical store is a tremendous benefit.
"A lot of companies won't sell to you unless you have a brick-and-mortar storefront," Aston said. "I still think people like the sense of security of knowing that there's a store behind the product."