ebruary is always a month of reflection. Many people think of the New Year starting the first of January, but for hobby dealers the holiday season goes until the kids return to school after the holiday break and oftentimes continues long into the month of January as customers cash in their gift certificates on winter projects. Usually it isn't until February that dealers get to sit back, take a deep breath and look back on the ups and downs of the previous year. Hopefully 2015 worked out to your satisfaction. Like many, for me the year began on a sour note, but ended in a positive way.
Taking a long overdue break from the issues of multi-rotor platforms, one of the recurring topics of discussion is the constantly changing hobby industry and the difficulty some dealers have trying to stay current with the changes. It's human nature to dislike change, but it's nothing new. The universe is ever evolving and change is a basic part of evolution. It has always been this way, and until a billion or so years from now when our sun explodes and turns the planet earth into a charred cinder, it always will be.
Even though it has almost nothing to do with the hobby industry, a good example of a changing product is lead. At one time lead, that heavy gray metallic stuff used to weight our model locomotives (for those who care, Pb number 82 on the periodic table of elements), was extremely valuable and quite rare. Fortunes could be made mining lead.
Roughly two centuries ago a large deposit of lead was discovered along the north end of the Mississippi River, at the southwest border of the state we now call Wisconsin. The area was quickly populated, becoming the metropolis of the region, and was given the name of New Diggings. [When lead is found in a naturally occurring metallic state, instead of an ore, it's known as galena. When General, later President, Ulysses S. Grant lived in Illinois he resided in the city of Galena, located about five miles south of New Diggings, but enough of the Denny fun-facts.]
As mentioned, people made their fortunes mining lead, but right after the Civil War ended the bottom fell out of the market. Within weeks the price had dropped to less than $5 per ton of ore. Lead was no longer lucrative, people actually lost money trying to mine and ship the mineral, even with the easy access to the Mississippi River. As a metropolis New Diggings collapsed. Gone was the money. So the population left also, wanting to find their fortunes elsewhere.
Reflecting back on our year, from the west side of Chicago, New Diggings is a pleasant ride through the country, or an hour and a half blast down the expressway, on a lazy weekend day. There are only two buildings left. One is the general store, which today is more of a museum than anything else, and the other is the brothel (if you want an employee to produce you have to keep him happy), which has been converted into a restaurant with an early 1800's tavern theme. Only a few people still live in the area, and the community's entire budget is based on travelers taking a day's break from their routine grind.
Since Al's closed I don't regularly travel to downtown Elmhurst, but the other day I needed to take care of some business. I was shocked at what I saw. The entire downtown area is now like a ghost town, several blocks of empty store fronts. All but a couple of the businesses have closed permanently, or moved to other locations. I've seen this sort of abandonment taking place in way too many communities lately. Do your best to keep it from happening to yours. HM
Until next month,