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The following article, written by Texas-based motorsports journalist John Sturbin after a visit to our old store in Holland Patent, N.Y., appeared in the Wednesday, September 17, 2014 edition of Racin’ Today and is used by permission:
American Car Culture Lives On In Upstate, N.Y.
by John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com – Wednesday, September 17 2014
HOLLAND PATENT, N.Y. – For many curious visitors, Mark Theobald’s hobby shop is the last business they expect to find in this sleepy, Central New York village.
“It’s a very common response,” said Theobald, owner and curator of Adirondack Motorbooks & Collectibles. “There’s only a couple of stores like this in the whole country that have an equal amount of books, magazines and die-cast.”
Downtown Holland Patent is an equidistant 10 miles north of Utica and east of Rome in the bucolic Mohawk Valley. Theobald’s store is located at 9554 Main Street, two lanes of blacktop dotted with similar mom-n-pop shops after one drives past a gazebo and a small cemetery.
“Thankfully, it’s (his store) on State Route 365, which is kind of the western gateway to the Adirondack Mountains, so there’s a lot of traffic between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” Theobald said on a late summer afternoon. “Unfortunately, very little of it stops. It’s a great place to live but I’d still rather be in Vermont.”
Theobald and his “SWAG” reluctantly relocated from their former home in Wells, Vt., in the Green Mountains, after Mark’s wife, Sarah, accepted a psychiatrist’s position with New York State.
“I didn’t want to move here because I had a great place to stay,” said Theobald, a 56-year-old native of Rochester. “And she mentioned that she would buy me a building to put my books and magazines in and then I could have a proper store. Took her up on the offer. We picked a really great location to live – not so great business-wise – in Holland Patent.”
The Theobalds purchased the former Jweid’s Market – built in 1875 as your basic, full-service country store – nd converted it into a customer-friendly 2,500-square-foot, wood-paneled shop filled with all things automobilia.
“We bought the building in 2005 and I traveled back-and-forth (to Vermont) for a couple of years,” Theobald said. “The building was a total nightmare. It had to be gutted. I did almost all the work myself and finally got it into shape after four years. Got everything arranged and opened on Dec. 1, 2010.”
Here are the updated inventory stats:
– 6,500 die-cast replicas ranging in size from Hot Wheels to 1/43, 1/24th and 1/18th-scale NASCAR, NHRA IndyCar, Formula One, Sports Car, Muscle Car, Sprint Car, TV/movie, farm, military, construction vehicles and motorcycle replicas. “Most of what I have other than Hot Wheels is in 1/18th scale…because that’s what sells here,” Theobald said.
– 75,000 back-dated magazines, most sealed in cellophane, as well as rare/out-of-print advertisements, brochures, photos, posters and DVDs. “That’s pretty accurate,” Theobald said. “I’ve counted them (the magazines) a couple of times and the average is 70,000 to 75,000. And if you look around the room and see all these stacks of cars, if you pull the cars away there’s stacks of magazines behind them. There’s wooden book boxes all around the place that have (periodicals).”
– 4,000 new and used hard-cover books. ”That’s dead-on,” Theobald said of a library that includes hard-to-find biographies (Jim Clark) among more typical individual marque histories (Corvette, Porsche, etc.) “They’re strictly categorized and pretty well organized,” Theobald said. “But the fact is that 90, 95 percent of the people that come into the store never even look at the books. It just has to do with nobody reads anymore. I’ve had people come in here and say, ‘What do you do with these books? Is it a library? Do I need a library card?’ And they were dead serious. And I said, ‘No, it’s a book store.’ They hadn’t even been to a book store ever in their life.”
Indeed, watching the world drive by at 30 MPH from his front window perch has given Theobald plenty of time to contemplate the state of the collectible industry and its customers.
“Your typical adult male who used to read magazines and books recreationally – typically they read about cars, hunting and fishing, military history or sports,” Theobald said. “Those guys now sit at home and watch TV. And they’ll go on the computer for maybe half-an-hour a day and think they’ll get all the news and information there is.
“My average customer, you would think it would be little kids. Little kids are not interested in cars. Once they hit 5-years-old and get their own iphone and ipad, cars are a done-deal to them, which is sad. And they’re not the first generation who are not into cars. For the most part, their parents are not into cars. People come in here all the time (and remark), ‘Boy, my grandfather would really like this place.’ Or, ‘My father would…’ And these are guys that are 30-35-years-old.
“My average customer in the store is 60 to 65 years old; you wouldn’t think that, but it’s true. I had children’s toys when I opened up and they just did not sell. The diehard collectors now buy exclusively on the internet. Here, you could literally spend hours just researching stuff. Essentially it’s a research library that people have access to and the stuff’s for sale.”
Theobald’s NASCAR offerings are highlighted by autographed, limited die-cast editions of Ford stock cars driven by Fred Lorenzen and A.J. Foyt Jr., clearly playing to that mid-60s age bracket.
“I still have a decent selection of 1/24th scale NASCARs and a lot of sprint cars and NHRA stuff,” Theobald said. “But in the past two years my NASCAR sales have almost become non-existent. When I opened up it (NASCAR) was still pretty popular. I opened up right after the big economic downturn of 2008-2009. And lo-and-behold there were some NASCAR dealers going out of business. Didn’t occur to me at the time…why are these guys going out of business?”
Adirondack Motorbooks & Collectibles is open year-round, seven days a week, from noon to 6 p.m. “I probably close maybe six or seven days all year long,” said Theobald, who began his collecting adventure with a selection of Gibson guitars. “I’m not a morning person because I was in the nightclub business for 20 years. I was a musician and also a sound engineer. My day, I got up at noon and stayed up until 4 or 5 (a.m.) Those were my normal hours for 20 years and it really gets ingrained in you.”
In reality, the fact that the store isn’t all that busy fits neatly into Theobald’s alternative automotive interest. “Having all these books and magazines gives me access to information, which started me writing about coach-building,” Theobald said. “In my spare time, I’m a coach-building historian. I have a website, coachbuilt.com, which I’ve been working on for 15 years.
“I have 1,200 coach-builders listed on the site and I spend almost the entire winter working on the coach-builders. I’m the only one that’s documented America’s coach-builders – these are the firms that made automobile and truck bodies, ambulances, hearses, etc.”
In 2010 the Antique Automobile Club of America awarded Theobald’s website the Society of Automotive Historians’ E.P. Ingersoll Award, honoring that year’s best presentation of automotive history using media other than print. The site and store also have been highlighted within the pages of leading periodicals like “Hemmings Motor News” and “Old Cars.”
Theobald said he always has been interested in specialty automobiles. “I loved ambulances and hearses when I was a little kid,” Theobald said. “There was an ambulance/hearse dealer probably five miles from the house. So whenever my grandparents took me to go somewhere I made them drive by there.
“And I actually bought an ambulance when I turned 16. I had a paper route from when I was 11, so I had money. Unbeknownst to my father, I went and put a downpayment on a gorgeous, 1963 Pontiac ambulance that was in beautiful shape. It was like $1,200 and I needed insurance cards and stuff. I had the money to buy the rest. I went home and told my dad and was all excited. He said, ‘Well, you can buy the ambulance. But you’re going to have to go live in that somewhere else. The choice is yours.’ I was 16 and as badly as I wanted it, the guy gave me my money back and said, ‘This happens more often than you would think.’^”
Theobald studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University for one year before transferring to the State University of New York at Brockport for another year. “I was a musician (jazz guitar) but also was interested in the technical side, the engineering side,” said Theobald, whose two-decade career in the music industry was built around installing sound and lighting systems in large nightclubs.
“If you ever go to a big concert, the guy in the middle of the audience with the sound board _ that’s what I used to do,” Theobald said of his stint as a sound engineer. “I got out of the sound business because I started feeling too old. I was almost 40 and all the people I’m working for were 20-years-old. Are they going to listen to an old guy? So I sold the sound equipment and put that money into used cars.”
Working for an auto wholesaler gave Mark the opportunity to attend and participate in auctions. “I did that as a part-time job for the next 10-12 years until I got married and my wife got an opportunity in the Eastern part of New York,” Theobald said. “It turns out her parents lived not very far away so that’s why I ended up in Vermont. It was my father-in-law’s house but he wasn’t there much. I got out of the car business when I moved there.”
Theobald said the only hobby store he knows of similar to his is located in Burbank, Calif. “They do a drum-up business because people think Jay Leno is going to come there,” Theobald said. “And he does go there occasionally. They have a Cars ‘n Coffee-type crowd; there’s a lot of wealthy car guys in Southern California.
“Upstate New York…this is probably one of the worst places you could have a store like this. The local economy is horrible, and it gets worse every year. Unfortunately, the store doesn’t make any money. It’s currently breaking even and that doesn’t count paying me. So it runs at my wife’s leisure, actually. She works and I keep the store and it keeps me busy.
“I’m committed to doing this until I die, providing my wife is into it. But if she decides tomorrow she wants to move to Hawaii, I’ll move to Hawaii.”
Meantime, Theobald can be contacted via phone at 315-865-5503 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com
John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 17 2014
Another great article about our Store in Holland Patent, NY:
Local Bookstore Bucks the Big-Box Trend:
Holland Patent Resident opens Independent Bookshop featuring Automotive Books and Automobilia
Holland Patent, N.Y., December 1, 2010 — Award-winning automotive historian and writer Mark Theobald’s lifelong passion for cars has led him to establish Adirondack Motorbooks & Collectibles, an independent bookstore and hobby shop focusing on automotive history and die-cast motor vehicles in Holland Patent, NY.
Good car books and die-cast replicas are harder to find in recent years, according to Theobald. “I fill the gap the big-box stores left. A decade ago, Borders and Barnes & Noble had respectable automotive book sections and Kay-Bee Toys and Toys ‘R’ Us had aisle upon aisle of die-cast models. Today the two national book retailers rarely stock more than a single shelf of automotive titles while the remaining toystore chain offers an embarrassingly small selection of die-cast trucks and automobiles.”
Although the big box stores’ automotive inventory has all but vanished, the nation’s car lovers remain as numerous as ever. According to Theobald, “The car-lovers didn’t go away; the stores just replaced the automobiles with video games and related books and merchandise.”
Despite that fact, he notes, both young and old continue to crave cars. Pixar’s movie Cars introduced a new generation to the appeal of vintage motorcars and the excitement of racing. Adirondack Motorbooks offers all the classic Cars characters, and beyond: “When your car curiosity wakes up, you always want to know more. Kids and adults can find it here.”
Located on State Route 365, the 2,500-sq.ft store stocks 4,000 new, used and rare books, 75,000 back-date magazines and 10,000 die-cast replicas in various scales and prices. While the emphasis is on trucks and automobiles, he also carries books and replicas of construction equipment, military vehicles, farm machinery and motorcycles.
Motorsports enthusiast will discover an entire room filled with diecast replicas of the region’s most popular DIRT modifieds, World of Outlaws sprint cars and NASCAR stock cars. Diehard fans will be amazed at the store’s selection of Winston and Sprint Cup books, caps, T-shirts and jackets.
Included is a spacious coffee bar where people who enjoy and appreciate automobiles can sit and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee with fellow auto aficionados. First-time visitors will also receive a FREE automotive magazine valued at $3-$6.
Plans for the coming year include regular weekend cruise-ins and auto club events. Theobald invites local clubs to call (315) 865-5503 to reserve a spot for the upcoming summer series.
The store, located in the center of Holland Patent, was formerly Jweid’s Market. Five years ago, Theobald purchased the building, fully stocked with dry goods and decades-old shelves and coolers. He donated the contents to local charities, and gave the refrigerators, scales and store fixtures to anyone who would take them away.
He spent three years gutting and rebuilding the structure after which he constructed the store’s specialized bookcases, spending almost a year organizing the store’s merchandise for the December 1st opening. “People around here were ready for me to open years before I was ready,” he remarks.
The bookshop in Holland Patent is not Theobald’s first. Before moving to the Mohawk Valley he operated a similar operation, Motor Library, in Vermont’s Green Mountains. During his career in the wholesale automobile business Theobald developed coachbuilt.com, an on-line encyclopedia detailing the history of America’s automotive body builders, some located in the Mohawk Valley. At this year’s Antique Automobile Club of America’s Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Theobald’s website was awarded the Society of Automotive Historians’ E.P. Ingersoll Award, which honors the year’s best presentation of automotive history using media other than print. The site and the store have been highlighted within the pages of such leading periodicals as Hemmings Motor News and Old Cars.
“I established the Holland Patent bookshop in order to provide local residents a place where they can inspect prospective purchases in person, unlike my competition who sell and display their merchandise exclusively through the internet. I hope local auto enthusiasts take advantage of the hands-on buying experience that Adirondack Motorbooks & Collectibles offers and trust they’ll get the same enjoyment from the automotive hobby as I do,” says Theobald.
Starting Wednesday December 1st, 2010, Adirondack Motorbooks will be open daily between 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm. The automotive book store, toy and hobby shop is located at 9554 Main St, State Route 365, Holland Patent, NY, directly across the street from Grande’s Pizzeria and the Holland Patent Pharmacy. The store is wheelchair accessible and parking for 20 cars is available in front of and behind the building.