When Sandy Weiner bought Fantasia Hobby World, he knew nothing about the radio-controlled cars and planes that filled the store.
Having moved to Long Island from Long Beach, Calif., Weiner was looking to acquire a business that he did not have to rush to at 9 a.m. Weiners wife worked as a school teacher and left early for the classroom, and Weiner wanted to be able to tend to his two young children in the morning.
The hours were convenient for taking care of the kids, Weiner explained.
Ten years later, Weiner has become an aficionado of the hobby business. He expanded the operation, moving it from Bayside to a larger location in Flushing at 171-69 46th Ave.
As one of two hobby shops in Queens, Fantasia has become somewhat of a mecca for hobby enthusiasts. The store is full of electric and gas cars, radio-controlled planes as well as various plastic models. Weiner and his employees, Joe Martin, Freddy Gianatiempo, and Eric Hernandez, also can do repairs on all the items they sell.
I love this place, said Louis Santelli, a customer who has been flying radio-controlled planes for 10 years.
Santelli said that unlike many other hobby shops, Fantasia does not overcharge.
With Sandy and Joe, you know what you are getting, he said.
Fantasias customers range in age from children to some men in their 40s.
A lot of parents want to have their kids come in here and try a different hobby, said Martin.
Fantasia is the gateway into two different worlds: the racing of radio-controlled cars and the flying of radio-controlled planes. Martin, a fan of radio car racing, said groups of hobbyists go from parking lot to parking lot and race their cars around makeshift tracks, but they often have to leave when police arrive.
The activity requires some skill. While the electric cars travel at speeds up to 20 miles an hour, the gas cars can reach speeds of as high as 70 miles an hour, Martin said.
Weiner, on the other hand, has become an expert at flying planes. Having started out on beginner models, Weiner now flies radio- controlled planes up to one quarter the size of manned planes, performing aerobatic twists with other members of flying clubs in front of audiences of thousands.
The adrenaline rush you get while doing it oh, man, said Jim Peterkin, a self-described loyal customer of the store.
Radio flying requires a period of apprenticeship. Using what is called a buddy box, a beginner flier takes control of a plane, while a more experienced flier can override the flying with his own set of controls in case of a problem.
Like anything else, radio flying has a learning curve.
Some people it takes a couple of weeks, some people a couple of years, joked Santelli.
When he bought Fantasia, the store was struggling, Weiner said. But he lowered prices and got involved in plane clubs, helping to bring in customers to the store.
I injected my own personality, said Weiner. Its a people to people business. I joined a lot of airplane clubs.
Peterkin said Weiners work has paid off.
A lot of us drive past other stores like this to get here just because of his personality, said Peterkin.
Peterkin gestured towards Weiner.
This is the first friend you make in the hobby.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community News Group
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