San Carlos landmark J&M Hobby Shop to close at end of March, owners set to retire

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Iconic San Mateo Co. hobby shop to close at end of March
J&M Hobby Shop, a San Carlos landmark in a funky art-deco building, will close at the end of March. Longtime owners Pam and Cliff White are set to retire.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- The art-deco building of the J&M Hobby House is a landmark in San Carlos not just for the outside, but also for all the memories inside.

"J and M stands for Joe and Marcel. Those were my parents," says J&M's owner Cliff White.

White took over the place from his mother and father 48 years ago with his wife Pam.

Since that handoff, J&M has become a one-stop institution for hobby-loving locals like Todd Schofield, who first came here at age 8.

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"Still looks the same," says the now middle-aged Schofield.

Mike Feddock has shopped here even longer.

"It's just customer service. They know everything. Can answer every question. You don't get that anywhere else," Feddock says.

"Everything in miniature, that's our world," adds White.

After all, where else can a person come in and build an Air Force?

Or buy a railroad?

Complete with buildings?

Or shrubbery? In a package?

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"People come to us to get lost in something they are passionate about. That they love," says White.

Back when J&M opened, we lived in a more tactile world.

We didn't have computers or video games.

We used our hands.

With people staying at home, the pandemic brought more business than this story had seen in a long time.

But all good things must come to an end.

Cliff and Pam White will close J&M Hobby Shop and retire at the end of March.

Leaving the business has been in the plans for a while.

"We will miss the people," says White.

"It is bittersweet," admits Pam White, but they don't feel guilty about closing. "We went four years longer than we thought."

If you add up all of the years operated, this small business survived more than half a century, through franchising, the Internet, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The owners say credit goes, in part, to a simple formula.

"I think we provide sanity in a crazy world," says Cliff White.

Spend time with people in a hobby shop and you may remember how much of that sanity still comes from within.