Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 3, 2013

Hobby Craft Etc. closing its doors after death of son

Family business had quite a go

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — After more than three decades of selling everything from car and plane models to paintbrushes and silk mums, the Hobby Craft Etc. at 819 N. Main St. in Corsicana is going out of business. It is Corsicana’s only dedicated hobby and craft store.

An inventory clearance sale began today and will continue through the end of the month. On Feb. 1, the owners will pack up what’s left and haul it to Florida, to be sold in flea markets near Pensacola, Fla., where they live now.

Lorna and Walter Hoffman came back to Corsicana to bury their son, Keith Howard, who worked in the business almost from the beginning. Closing the store is just details.

The Hoffmans moved to Corsicana in the late 1970s, when Walter transferred from Baltimore to work at Chattanooga Glass, the former bottle factory in Corsicana. His wife, who had just learned how to macramé, vowed she was going to open a crafts store, which she did on Sept. 15, 1979, in what was then the Navarro Mall. Macramé is the art of tying twine or cords into knots that form interesting shapes.

“Macramé, it was hot back then,” Lorna said. “That was our main thing.”

When Walter got laid off, he joined his wife in their small business, then called American Handicrafts.

What began with macramé and yarn took a couple of interesting turns, first when a customer came in and asked for “Makit & Bakit” kits. Makit & Bakit was a trend in the early 1980s of melting brightly colored plastic crystals in metal frames to create suncatchers, like miniature stained glass projects.

“It went like hot cakes,” Walter said. “Everybody wanted it. I’d go to Dallas twice a week for more.”

They expanded into hobbies when Walter became interested in model airplanes. Keith was into the remote controlled cars and helicopters. Keith began with hobbies, but went into framing after attending a framing school in Brownsville.

“He had a big following. He had clientele coming from Dallas,” Karen said.

They grew out of that site within two years and moved into a much bigger space in the mall, explained the Hoffmans’ daughter Karen Myers.

Over the years, the family-owned business expanded their inventory and interests by buying out Toyland, two frame stores and then a cake decorating store. When the mall went through a renovation and the Hoffmans were told they’d have to do most of their own work and then pay higher rent, Walter bought the store across the street and they moved in 1983.

They owned a similar, larger store in Waco for two or three years, but closed that in 1987 or so, Walter said.

“I wore out two cars and got tired of Highway 31,” he explained.

While other retailers made their living during the Christmas season, Hobby Craft, Etc., as it had become known, looked forward to Homecoming, when hundreds of high school students and their parents would descend on the store to build elaborate homecoming mums complete with bells, whistles, toys, ribbons and everything else.

If they made their living off the mums, certainly part of their reputation was Czar, the Russian wolfhound who came to work each day with Walter and Lorna. The enormous white dog would curl up in the middle of the store in front of the counter, ignoring the shoppers who stepped over and around him. As his gentle nature became known, people would come into the store just to see Czar.

Meanwhile, their daughter had joined a small start-up company that forced her to move to Georgia, and later they relocated to Pensacola. She pleaded with her parents to join her in Florida, too, which they finally did in 2009. Keith wanted to stay in Corsicana and run the store.

Walter is 83, Lorna five years younger. They both enjoy their new Florida home.

“I’m 83. At some point you get up and don’t want to go to work,” Walter said. “I like water. There’s lots of water down there.”

Although they no longer go to a store everyday, they keep busy. They’ve built a house in Florida and are doing their own landscaping. Walter keeps his hands busy building things like swings, pergolas and gazebos. Lorna jokes that her days are busy planting shrubs, watching them die and then planting more.

“I can’t say I’m retired,” Lorna said. “I’m too busy to do anything.”

Looking around the shop, Lorna said there are a lot of memories here but she’s not too sad to see it go.

“I’m not unhappy about the store,” she said. “I’m unhappy about Keith.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com