Philadelphia Robotics Group Message Board › Who would use a storefront for engineer/hobbyists like us types of all ages?

Who would use a storefront for engineer/hobbyists like us types of all ages?

Tom S.
user 9369054
King of Prussia, PA
Post #: 8
It's unlikely that I'm going to run off and build such a thing right now but I'm just curious,

I've always thought it would be fun to have an electronics/programming store, but I know that most of them are not doing too well these days because of online shopping and such. That being said I wonder if there just needs to be a new type of store that catered toward the maker/hobbyist/geeky groups right down to the younger generation. I did think that there probably are not enough people to support such a store but if the concept were stretched into geeky gifts and such I think it might be possible, or at least worth posting on the robotics group forum to discuss ;-)

Here are the kinds of things I would have at a store that catered to someone like me personally, would anyone pay a markup over amazon so they could physically buy such things?
* Geeky t-shirts, desk gadgets, and other gifts.
* Arduino, Raspberry Pi, And other small hobby micros and accessories so you can walk out with something functional.
* Programming stuff (Funny thing as a programmer I think we are more likely to hand each other geeky tshirts and learn all the actual programming online, so besides a few books and possibly being an IDE reseller I'm not sure what else would go here)
* Possibly books on robotics and such.
* All the typical tiny electronics parts that would somehow be cheaper the more you bought. Singles for one price and bulk boxes that wouldn't cost much more since I can see how singles at 2cents each could never pay for the store space.
* Organizers.
* Electronic tools. Fluke & other hand held tools/oscilloscopes/logic analyzers.
* Tools and other parts that don't compete with home depot.
* High quality soldering stations and other parts.
* Servos and other hobby parts that you use for robotics.
* Parts for building drones/aircraft
* Educational robotics kits like sumo-bots, snap together circuit kits etc. I would probably put technic legos and whatever it is kids who like building stuff build with these days.
* Maybe 3d printer accessories as it becomes more popular.
* Space for classes/building stuff if possible.
* If the space were available a tech recycling/you pull it type thing would be fun... but I'm thinking most of the time these days it would cost more to get rid of the stuff nobody wanted.
Earl M.
Abington, PA
Post #: 13
I agree a retail store would fun.
However, it would need to operate as a charity since I can not see how it could generate cash flow in the current retail environment that has evolved.
Bob A.
user 69549842
Medford, NJ
Post #: 2
It would be a very cool place to go for electronics hobbyists but generating enough revenue would require a lot of work.

However, there are still a few electronic storefronts in Silicon Valley that seem to do just fine. While the number of them has dropped, the survivors are a ton of fun to visit and are often quite busy, such as Anchor Electronics, as that seems closest to what you're proposing.

Another way to generate loyal customers would be to have a workbench or two so someone can bring in a partially-working project, by parts right there, try it out, buy a few more goodies, etc. It would also build a community since other customers would ask what the project is, offer suggestions, chip in to help, etc.

Add in soda machine and free wifi :) If you've never been to a Fry's out west, they have quite a food area that tends to be next to the electronics parts section of the store. I've watched people enjoying their drink and snack while looking at the well-placed displays for some kits in the display area. Yes, Fry's sells a lot more than just parts, but every time I've been to one, every row of the parts section (and there are many rows) has had people in them.

And don't forget to host events such as Meetups. I worked for a computer store back in the early 80s that hosted a computer club, and the store would be open for sales before and after the meeting, offering a 10% discount that night. If someone talked about a particular piece of software/hardware they used and liked, the store would often sell every copy we had that evening.

Just remember that it needs to be more than just a store. You're west of the city and I'm in NJ... if I can find exactly what you're selling on eBay for about the same amount, then what else would draw me to your store? The atmosphere!

Tom S.
user 9369054
King of Prussia, PA
Post #: 9
Thanks for the input :-) Maybe someday, I agree that it would be hard in the current retail environment, even if taxes become required online. I do think it would be quite a bit of fun though and I agree bob that being proactive about making a store that appeals to the maker types would be essential. Kind of like the hobby stores that do the RC races and stuff... but geared toward robotics and stuff.
Earl M.
Abington, PA
Post #: 14
My thought is to operate a tech scrap yard type store. Hardware would be stripped down (boned) and sold.
Also new build material (metal, plastic, etc.), some electronics and tools would be available.
Could be operated in a low rent industrial area and do mail order through a web site.
Bob A.
user 69549842
Medford, NJ
Post #: 3
Whenever I get to Silicon Valley, hitting all the surplus electronics places is my favorite activity. We don't have as many high-tech companies in the area producing surplus anymore, and a lot of it is all surface mount and difficult to extract parts from. However, I used to get a lots of surplus stuff from a few companies even a few years ago.

There are places like Herbach & Ardeman still around (­. They're in a low-rent area but don't allow people to wander their hallways because of insurance issues, so you can order and make arrangements to pick up in person.

There are zillions of old computers out there for free/cheap, but it would be hard to find enough buyers for that kind of stuff. On the other hand, I've just gotten my old S-100 computer running (circa 1978-1981) but need to find lots of oddball parts to finish it off, so going through piles of old PC parts might yield the cables/connectors I'm looking for.
Roy B
user 4594812
Group Organizer
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 33
Good points, everyone.

Here's my $0.02:

I believe that at least some of the Hackerspaces have something like a spare parts bin for use by their members. The former home of the Hacktory was (is?) run by a group that recycled computers (i.e. took donated computers and gave them to the less fortunate / schoools etc). Perhaps we should try to leverage the resources of these folks (and perhaps even NextFab) to see if collectively we might get this idea off the ground.

I don't have high hopes that my idea will be very appealing to these groups, but they all have some interest in the experimenter/hobbist/hacker community outside their own membership, so its worth trying.

- Roy
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