Miniature modeller by passion.
Since first laying eyes on an Airfix Spitfire in the window of a hobby shop in Brighton’s Lanes in the early 1970’s I’ve loved building plastic models. If you grew up in the ’70’s it is near a guarantee you built at least one model kit, complete with hallucination inducing model glue. I gave up my passion in the ’80’s as I went off to uni, discovering dance clubs, fashion and girls. I came to my senses not too soon after moving to Los Angeles in 1989. I was living in Sherman Oaks, a leafy hillside suburb of Los Angeles. South of the Boulevard. Each Thursday I would drive down from the hills to Ventura Blvd, pass Bed Bath and Beyond and turn onto Laurel Canyon. Before meeting a friend for lunch at Daily Grill, I’d stop into a Studio City tradition, a hobby shop in the old style — Kit Kraft.
It was part of the Studio City community for sixty seven years, and outlived nearly all brick and mortar hobby shops in the country. Kit Kraft was my “local” for the twenty years I lived in L.A. It survived all of it. Northridge earthquake and LA riots. But like all good things, they were blessed to have their time in the sun before ageing and if they are lucky fade away. Kit Kraft had a marvellous run. Sixty-seven years. They opened their doors in 1954! Imagine Ventura Blvd then? All the hot rod gangs cruising on a Saturday night. Heading over to Bob’s Big Boy drive in. Another age.
The internet decimated hobby shops beginning in the mid-1990’s. Add to it our ageing hobby. Younger modellers are few and far between. The COVID pandemic was the end for Kit Kraft.
I can’t count the number of visits I paid to Kit Kraft. I bought endless model kits. Also paints. Brushes.
Glues. And for a short time they stocked an impressive — if select — collection of resin figurines. I still have some of them in my stash. I also couldn’t count the number of celebrity encounters I had in the aisles. My favourite was a comedian from In Living Colour named David Alan Grier. He was there not buying model kits, but colourful beads to weave into dreadlocks. The man had me in stitches. All manner of Special Effect artists would stop in for a shade of paint they needed, brushes or for a model kit they needed to kit bash from for some special effect. This was the Golden Age of Modelling.
In 2006 I stopped in on my return from Crunch gym that used to be on Sunset at Laurel Canyon on the other side of the hill. I crossed back over the canyon to the Valley and stopped in to have a little look about. I was in the armour model section and I happened to look up and see a fellow who looked shockingly like Mike Blank. But that was impossible. I knew Mike from Euro Militaire. He was a famous figure painter. And living in Sweden. What would he be doing in a hobby shop in Studio City? I then saw coming towards me with a smile none other than Mike Goode. Another figure painter and sculpture famous for his works with Jaguar Models. Mike was a So. Cal native and Mike Blank had just appeared at the annual Scahms concorso in Orange County.
Although I was not there to witness it myself, Steven
Spielberg, Guillermo Del Torro and JJ Abrams sometimes stopped in to stock up on kits before a Sunday modelling get together. Kit Kraft was were the nerd herd met. I did dearly adore the place.
I moved away from Los Angeles in 2010 after living there for twenty years. I have visited LA many times since and always popped in to Kit Kraft for a bit of shopping. Although I am not completely caught out by its closing, still it’s sad news. The Valley I knew so well from the twenty odd years of living there has almost completely shed its skin. Señor Fred, Iwata. Jerry’s Deli, Stanley’s. Now Kit Kraft. Bed Bath & Beyond is soon to close its doors after more than thirty years on Ventura Blvd. All my old haunts gone.
Life is ever evolving and we grow and sometimes we go. The memory of these wonderful places remain intact.