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Posted on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

Rider's Hobby Shop to close after Tree Town Toys left shared space

By Lizzy Alfs

Rider’s Hobby Shop plans to close its store in the Traver Village Shopping Center on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor in about three weeks, owner Brent Martin announced today.

The store - which was originally set to close in summer 2011 due to a decline in sales - had a few more months of life after moving into a shared space with Tree Town Toys in September.

Hans Masing, co-owner of Tree Town Toys, and Martin struck a partnership to run the two businesses out of one location, with Rider’s Hobby subleasing half the 5,000-square-foot store.


The partnership between Rider's Hobby Shop and Tree Town Toys has come to an end after Tree Town closed in December and Rider's Hobby plans to close in three weeks,

Photo from Hans Masing

But when Tree Town Toys announced its plans to close when its lease expired Dec. 31, Rider’s Hobby was left operating out of the entire space.

“It’s really too bad, because we had a good solution,” Martin said. “It was working for us, but the solution only worked as long as we had the ability to partner with Tree Town. Their surprising us by closing created a situation where we couldn’t make it on our own.”

He added: “If we had to bear all of the rent and utilities and everything else on our own, it just put us back in the same boat we were in before.”

Although Martin wasn’t aware of Tree Town Toys’ plan to close when he moved into the shared space, he said he doesn’t regret the decision.

“We don’t regret the fact that we tried,” he said. “What we were trying to do all along was keep the business open.”

The most difficult part of closing, Martin said, is losing his six “wonderful” employees and saying goodbye to his loyal customers.

“It’s sad to think that this creative outlet for the community isn’t going to be around anymore, but we just thank all our customers over the years and we enjoyed getting to know so many people,” he said.

The inventory in Rider’s Hobby is currently marked 20 percent off, and the discounts will increase over the next few weeks.

As for Masing and his wife, Tricia, they decided to close their brick-and-mortar store to focus on, a warehousing business that provides toy fulfillment and logistics to national charitable organizations and 40 stores throughout the country.

Masing also told he saw a decline in sales at his business over the last couple years due to a number of obstacles, including Michigan’s tough economy, federal toy regulations and big-box competitors.

Ann Arbor-based First Martin Corporation owns the Traver Village Shopping center. The company is marketing the Tree Town and Rider’s space, along with a 6,960-square-foot former Blockbuster, which First Martin plans to separate into several retail spaces.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:03 a.m.

Goodbye and good luck


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

To JNS131 - your information is incorrect - one of the original owners ( from 1972 ) died, but had no sons. I know the family and they are not "walking away with pockets of money". Just the opposite. Unless you have tried to operate a small business, none of you have any idea what it takes. You can comment all you want, but please have your facts straight before posting. And I don't believe that Martin was "surprised" by the lease ending, he was surprised by TTT closing with little notice.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

Small, service-oriented businesses don't cater to people who only care about saving a dime and not having to drive a couple of miles and park a car. Trust me, when I see those customers in brick and mortar stores trying to get a hard working small business owner to knock a dollar off a product, I cringe. When I see someone come into a store just to comparison shop and be able to see the product then go home and buy it on Amazon, I think those people should pay a cover charge. You are using a business with no intention of supporting it. Shame on you. If all you care about is price, the Internet is your oyster. Have at it. But do understand you have made a choice. And if you have any integrity, any decency, you will not waste the time of local business owners using them for your Internet end gain. And to those of you, like me, who care about your community, who believe getting great service and assistance from a knowledgeable person is valuable, and enjoy getting to know and support local business owners (your neighbors!) - I tip my hat to you. You are the people who make communities great. Thanks for being the backbone of America and making our communities and this country a better, more social, and more civil place.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

N. Todd - Using the term comparison shop was a mistake on my part. The shoppers I am referring to are not comparison shopping. They are using the brick and mortar stores as a resource to check out the product intending to then return home and place an order online. Their intention was never to buy the product locally. I find this practice shameful. How do I know people are doing this? I have observed people, as subtle as a brick, do this while they discuss what they are doing with the person or persons with whom they are shopping. I have read plenty of blogs or comments where people freely admit to doing this - without an ounce of shame. And then we have the deplorable Amazon comparison shopping app.

N. Todd

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

I can certainly agree and appreciate your second paragraph, but the first one just comes across as bitter to me. Have you genuinely seen people go in to comparison shop just to go home and order it on Amazon? Don't get me wrong - I know that happens, probably often. However, how do you know those people weren't comparison shopping between locally owned and operated, independent stores? I attempt to avoid the big box hardware stores, but I will shop prices between a couple of local hardware stores. Is this wrong of me because I don't buy merchandise every time I go in a store?


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

Maybe I am crazy but theres even an ad for an online company selling RC helicopters on this very page. ayiyiyi


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

Here's a great place for plastic modelers - The modeling hobby is alive and well at ModelCave! <a href=""></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Their name says it all - ModelCave!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

I run a service business and every day I wonder how these brick and mortar stores survive with the ability to buy on the internets. What an unenviable uphill battle.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

I am reading an article from the NYC Times. Barnes and Noble is in trouble now too. Amazon is giving them a run for the money. Only a matter of time.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

I've always been slightly annoyed by Rider's calling themselves a &quot;hobby shop&quot; when really they represent a small very circumscribed segment of &quot;hobbies&quot; and had no other objects besides things forpeople interested in remote-control vehicles, train sets, and models. It's like a place that only sold crayons calling itself &quot;An Art Store&quot;.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

That was after they left Liberty and tried to make a go of it on Carpenter. Once the stores started closing it only became time before it became a white elephant. Another piece of the past.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Internet and a focus on electronic appliances have bitten heavly into the '&quot;modeling' market especially local stores. One of the activities that provides a total concentration is building a or making a model. That activity like sailing or racing requires the same concentration which makes one completely forget about the days frustrations. It's like kick starting the mind to get away and then come back with a new perspective on whatever the frustration might be. For many it is a social break if they belong to a club because sharing their expertise or learning from some else without the business competitiveness is fun. Clubs are for the club's goals and though there maybe different ideas the coming together to complete a goal is rewarding. Modeling is a form of 'Hollywood' making your own or a groups stage. Auto, ship, train, and airplane modelers all have a part in creating the scene. Turning that scene into a shared operating scheme is a rewarding activity. Riders has been an excellant store / operation with many talented &amp; knowledgable people helping people learn a new set of skills. 'Tis a shame.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

So disappointing to constantly see local businesses close. I only recently discovered Tree Town Toys and now they are gone. The people at that store were so nice, attentive, and helpful. People are now looking for one stop shopping and great bargains so are going to the bigger stores. Very sad for the local and keeping the money local.

Harley B. Rider

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

Very sad end to a business that had served Ann Arbor since early last century. My grandfather started Rider's Pen Shop on State Street back before World War Two. It moved to 115 W. Liberty in the late '40s and my father and uncle gradually transitioned through office supplies to hobbies, with emphasis on trains (my father's interest), airplanes (my uncle's interest), HO gauge slot cars, and about every kind of plastic model kit imagineable. Rider's was a destination business, with customers regularly coming from all over Michigan and northern Ohio. The business prospered, and even expanded to Jackson, Kalamazoo, Flint, and a few other locations after my father and uncle sold it in 1972. But I believe that expansion may have been the start of the demise. A business run by two brothers (and my aunt) who were truly engaged in what they were doing made for a level of comfort than can't be met by a chain of stores.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Thats not the story I heard, but what ever.

Hans Masing

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Thanks for sharing your story, Harley. I was a customer of Rider's on Liberty almost 20 years ago when I first moved to Ann Arbor, and was thrilled that there was a great local hobby shop. I did what I could to try to keep the brand alive, but it just wasn't to be.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

Internet, internet, internet.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Most of what you are looking for can be found on the internet. There is a Doll Hospital in Berkley I need to get out to to repair some dolls. Otherwise, nothing available anymore except on the internet.

Bob Krzewinski

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

There is another hobby shop (i.e. plastic model kit) in Washtenaw County, the recently opened Model Cave on Michigan Avenue in dowtown Ypsilanti, just west of City Hall.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

This new place sounds great for modelers. Here's an article about it: <a href=""></a> and here's their webpage: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

Sorry to hear this....I hung out at Rider's a lot in the 60s, they were a good place to buy plastic models, among other hobby stuff....

average joe

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Thank you for our daily store closing report....

Hans Masing

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Brent was categorically *not* surprised by the fact that our Tree Town Toys lease with First Martin ended on December 31st. Rider's sublease ended at the same time as our lease. Brent knew in July that we were only going to enter in to an agreement through December 31st, and that we would renew the lease if both businesses agreed. By late December, they had not discussed renewal of the lease, so we made our decision to close Tree Town Toys, and immediately informed Brent (the following morning). We informed First Martin after, and our staff, and then the public in very quick order. I want to clarify this because I don't want there to be any perception that we withheld information from Rider's or mislead Brent. The terms of the agreements between Rider's and Tree Town Toys were well known by Brent and First Martin, who both reviewed and approved the sublease agreement. We acted in good faith throughout our agreement with Rider's, but had to make decisions about our businesses and family. I am truly sorry that Rider's is closing. They were an Ann Arbor institution. I spoke with Lizzy (the author of this article) late this afternoon, and clarified this with her. If she chooses to put these clarifications in the article, then please feel free to delete this comment. :-)

Hans Masing

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

@jns131 - I'm not quite sure how to interpret your tone. Is there a smiley missing or something? What are you trying to say here?


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

Ah huh. Sounds like you need to be on the board with AAPS. Nice and plausible. Everyone knew Ryders was in trouble. I guess it goes without saying.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

The Plymouth Rd mall does not have foot traffic. It's a strip mall and dependent on cars. If you are not going to a particular store at that location, it's not likely you will drive there. Toys, hobby shops, etc, are niche businesses and will struggle unless they are located where people are strolling by and decide to stop in. Big box and internet are also very real competition. I like the Plymouth Rd mall, but only go there for a specific reason, such as FedEx or Kroger's. Toys and hobbies are not stores where the North Campus UM students will likely go, and that's a huge part of the &quot;traffic&quot; in that location. Good luck renting the space. The Blockbuster space has been vacant for over a year. BUT of course, they continue to build strip malls along Washtenaw Ave..........

Hans Masing

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Tree Town Toys was a destination for many Ann Arbor and Detroit Area families. We loved being in Traver Village and it was a great mix of retail. A pet store, a grocery store, and the UM Credit Union made a toy store a great addition. In addition, we could not have asked for better landlords than First Martin. They supported us 100% throughout our 5 1/2 years at Traver. Big Box and Internet are part of the challenge for any retail of commodity goods. Add to that the surge in unemployment in Michigan in 2008/2009 and it just wasn't feasible for us to continue. The amount of work did not really offset the revenue and the loss of family time.

just a voice

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Don't get me wrong, but I think they had some serious management problems going back to around the time they moved from Liberty St. That used to be the place to go for gaming in Ann Arbor. They were so well known for gaming they had a Sim City collectible card game special promo card (I still have mine). Since they've moved I haven't had any luck at all. They transitioned to a market of product that is much more expensive. It cost less then 100 to get into a good game (D&amp;D, board games, etc), while it cost much more to have a really nice RC plane. Before the games would bring in the younger people who then might have some interest in that awesome looking plane hanging from the ceiling.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8 p.m.

It wasn't management. The owner died and the sons wanted nothing to do with a hobby shop. Except I think one. He tried to make a go of it and failed. The father was the one who loved this business, his sons did not. Now they have nothing except a failed business and money in their pockets. Good bye and good luck.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

End of an era. I am not surprised by this. They combined services to help ease cost. Did not go so well after tree town left. Most of their stuff will be sent back to the vendor for credit. Can't very well mark it down because then there would be no profit to gain. Good luck and good bye. Parthenon, Champion House and now Ryders. Wow. What next?


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Meh. I went to the last going out of business sale last year and didn't see many great deals.....


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

I am a huge Rider's fan, and I agree. I was hoping to get some nice stuff for my telescope, but everything was barely marked down.