Melbourne shop a haven for hobby enthusiasts since 1963


Published:

Ernie Howering III runs Ernie’s Hobby Shop on Apollo Boulevard in Melbourne. His 84-year-old father opened the original Ernie’s in 1963. Howering stands next to a model airplane built by Melbourne customer Richard Hayes.

Photo by Mike Gaffey

Ernie Howering III has a simple answer when asked to explain how Ernie’s Hobby Shop has stayed in business since 1963.

“Faithful customers,” said the Melbourne resident, who now runs his father’s shop at 631 S. Apollo Blvd.

Tucked away in a small shopping plaza off Babcock Street near the railroad tracks, Ernie’s has been the go-to place for generations of hobby enthusiasts searching for radio-controlled airplanes, model train items, rockets and scale plastic model kits of airplanes, cars, ships, spacecraft and military hardware and figures.

“We haven’t changed much,” Howering III said of his store’s inventory. “Trains, rockets, radio-controlled airplanes, that type of stuff. But no RC (radio-controlled) cars or helicopters. We got away from them.”

The shop has moved several times since Howering III’s father, now 84, opened Ernie’s more than five decades ago.

“We’ve been throughout Melbourne,” Howering III said. “We’ve been in old downtown Melbourne off of Depot Drive. Then we moved into the Five and Dime that was McCrory’s, and then from there we moved to the end of Babcock, and then to Apollo in the early 1970s.”

Inside the shop, model planes ranging from World War I biplanes to fighter jets hang from the ceiling. 

Hobby supplies line the shelves. Kits allow enthusiasts to build plastic models or anything from a steamboat to the suborbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne. There are even models of Herman and Grandpa from the 1960s TV comedy “The Munsters.”

Model railroad supplies remain the store’s top seller, Howering III said. Shelves are stocked with miniature engines, rail cars, tracks, buildings, bridges, foliage and people. Tiny, detailed trains are displayed in a glass case.

Visitors to Ernie’s have come away impressed.

“It’s a classic hobby shop from days gone by,” David Grow posted on Google. “The owner loves his trade, and is able to render advice and assistance on most any topic related to hobbies. He sells both new and used items to help any modeler find a bargain solution to almost any challenge. I have found him honest, kind, kid-friendly, and a wonderful asset to the community — even though I have to drive about an hour to get there.

“It’s rare these days to be able to have a relationship with a company. It’s possible at Ernie’s.” 

JUST THE FACTS

Ernie’s Hobby Shop is at 631 S. Apollo Blvd., Melbourne.

Hours are:

10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday

For more information, call 321-724-5257