In the News
About us
File a Complaint

In 1946, families were booming in the post-war era and businesses on Ocean Avenue began to cater to family entertainment, such as the El Rey theater and an ice skating rink at the site of the current Ramallah Hall.

The same year, Bill Gunther returned to San Francisco from the European front and opened Franciscan Hobbies on Ocean Ave for $300.00.

His son, John Gunther still runs his father's original hobby store and has worked there since he was fourteen years old, save one six month gap to "explore the outside world."

The store still caters to those nostalgic for a time before televised and electronic entertainment, when craft toys were common.

"Kids loved to work with their hands and create things," John Gunter said, "Raw materials were so scarce after the way" and hobby kits provided the materials and guidelines to spur tactile creativity.

There are less hobby stores in San Francisco than there used to be.

"Two and a half down from sixteen." John Gunther said, but his customers have remained loyal through the generations. "Parents relive their childhood through their own kids, bringing them to their favorite sections of the store."

Remote controlled vehicles such as airplanes, land vehicles, and boats remain popular with kids, he said.

Kids like Deke Behnan, 11, who visited the store with his father the day after Thanksgiving. They were picking up model train cars and tracks as an early Christmas present.

"I like trains and helicopters and anything remote controlled", Deke Behnan said.

His father, Ali Behnan, prefers the solid construction of the models at Franciscan Hobbies to the cheap imitations that line the shelves at big box retailers such as Walmart.

"This is an old-fashioned hobby store, like when I was a kid," Ali Behnan said.

Ever summer, Gunther's business draws model train enthusiasts from around the world who travel by BART to visit the store. The weeks right after Thanksgiving is another peak sales season, he said.

Located in Franciscan Hobby's original storefront, Ocean Cyclery shares some customers with Gunther's store. Cycling is a different type of hobby, Taliaferro said.

Like the hobby store, the Cyclery also deals with the whims of the digital marketplace, Taliaferro said, such as kids wanting a new video game for a holiday gift in lieu of a new bike, in addition to stiff price competition with online retailers. Ocean Cyclery offers hands on help, which online shops can't provide.

Albert Rivera, who has worked at Franciscan Hobbies for thirteen years, said that expertise and product knowledge also set their store apart.

"One day, I was looking at models, and I started answering questions" Rivera said, and he was then shortly hired thereafter.

Regular customers come to Rivera and ask, "What's new in plastic models?" he said, rather than referring to online resources first and most of their customers have been shopping there for a while too.

John Gunther is optimistic that the western span of Ocean Avenue will become more prosperous.

"It costs to be in San Francisco," Gunther said, though the cost is worth the city's "laid-back" cultural acceptance of independent stores for enthusiasts.

Franciscan Hobbies also faced frequent break-ins when the store was located on the other side of Ocean Avenue. Gunher said his father originally chose the Ingleside to open his business because there was access to public transportation and open parking.