On the corner of Broadway in the center of Pitman, N.J., its doors open wide in invitation, BOB’S Hobbies and Crafts beckons passersby to come in and explore its tightly packed shelves of hobby, craft, and art supplies. That first glimpse also reveals the hub of this treasure trove, a register rising up among yet more special items in this extensively stocked “Mom and Pop” shop, and the counter where customers and browsers can find out about the latest in radio-controlled airplanes or the many ways in which to build a solar system for a school project as well as what’s happening in the community.
This one-time drugstore and ice cream parlor, built in the early 1900s, dispenses other treats today in the form of jigsaw puzzles, collectible cars, trains and layout materials, and cake and doll-making tools, to name just a few options. Hard to find leather kits for wallets and belts —BOB’S has them. Need a new paintbrush for an art class? —BOB’S has it. From the latest Thomas the Tank Engine tm models to classes in decorative one-stroke decorative painting, BOB’S Hobbies has been an important regional source for craft and hobby supplies for almost 35 years.
The store delights the eye with its feel of a home craft area and a depth of stock not always found in an independent small-town store. Filling niches has always been a strategy of Alice Polocz, who founded the business with her late husband Rob ert after he earned his business degree, and under the high ceiling and on the tall shelves you find “little departments of things you have trouble finding anywhere else,” Polocz notes, such as the supplies for bed pillow dolls or the templates and tools needed for beginning draftsmen.
The Polocz approach also built on business sense and what many would call excellent timing. When first considering a retail business, the couple knew that another successful local hobby store was closing because of retirement. When another local merchant closed that had carried Scouts items, BOB’S Hobbies worked and succeeded in gaining approval to stock them. And when their art materials supplier went out of business, the Poloczs’ ensured that they would have brushes and paints and papers available in their shop by starting their own wholesaling business.
The store began with only one supplier, Polocz recounts. The original shop, she adds, was across and down the street in a space with such narrow aisles that you could easily bump into one shelf while leaning toward another. The move to its current location came only a year later, with friends and trucks and even wagons helping to move the merchandise to its new, larger and brighter, and more central spot.
Throughout the years, the stock has changed somewhat, with the early popularity of “model motoring” track racecars and paint-by-number kits having given way to model rockets and more sophisticated painting kits. Youth groups, school groups, parents and their children, younger and older, from Pitman and surrounding areas still all find their way to BOB’S for hobby train needs in gages from N to G, plastics for making buildings, rock tumbling and volcano kits, scrapbooking papers and scissors, and more.
Polocz says that the other fundamental success of BOB’S Hobbies and Crafts, in addition to the comprehensive stock that is continually considered for additions or changes, comes in info rmation. BOB’S Hobbies will direct customers to the large chain craft stores when appropriate, and those stores in turn also refer people to BOB’S. The store also is known as a place to learn more about the vital small town of Pitman , but most important, someone is always ready, willing, and able to answer any hobby or craft question, discuss the materials and steps to make a basket, a tree skirt, or stationery, and to help pick out the needed supplies in the store.