Alphabetic Directory of San Francisco Bay Area Hobby Shops

Berkeley Ace Hardware, moved to Miliva, 1 block south of University, Berkeley, CA – (510) 845-0410 (under construction…)
A Hardware store so still open under Shelter At Home.

Dan Webb Books, 322 15th Street (Between Webster and Harrison), Oakland CA 94612 – (510) 444-4572

Hobbies Unlimited, 937 Manor Boulevard, San Lorenzo, CA – 510-351-7112
Closed during Shelter In Place for Covid-19.

Hobby Company, 5150 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 – (415) 386-2802 – Plastic models fading out, diorama supplies for school California Mission projects were in stock last time I visited..

Japantown Collectibles, – Japan Center Kinokuniya Bldg.,
1st Floor, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco, CA 94115 Tel: 415-563-2970

J & M Hobby House, 1660 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA – (650) 593-5019
Closed during Shelter In Place for Covid-19.

Nor Cal Hobbies & Raceway, 30600 Union City Blvd, Union City, CA –
(510) 324-5700

Slot Car Magic and Hobbies, 104 Parrott St, San Leandro, CA – (510) 357-8514

Sheldon’s Hobbies, 2130 Trade Zone Blvd, San Jose, CA – (408) 943-0220

Toy Safari 1410 Park St Alameda, CA 94501 (510) 522-1723

8 responses to “Alphabetic Directory of San Francisco Bay Area Hobby Shops

  1. omg.. good work, brother

  2. Largest Hi Speed Commercial Plastic Track in Northern California

  3. Thanks for a most useful (and entertaining) website! A specific quest: I’ve just bought, at Ace Hardware in Berkeley, the GMP 1:35 P-51D “Old Crow.” The model had been on display, and somehow had lost its tail wheel. Where would you suggest I shop to find a plausible replacement? I don’t insist on absolute authenticity, since it’s such an inconspicuous part, I’ll settle for any wheel of about the right size to be the tailwheel on a 1:35 model of the Mustang.


  4. Hi, thank you for the list.
    My son is looking for tank models to work on. Could you let me know which store has the largest and best collection? We live in the East Bay but are willing to drive far if necessary. Thank you.

    • Hi Sue,
      Tanks, armored, unarmored military vehicles, and soldier figures, and equipment, are in reasonable supply at Berkeley Ace Hardware and Hobbies Unlimited in San Lorenzo. The most common scales for these sort of models are 1/35 and 1/76 to 1/72. Both shops have a good selection of 1/76 to 1/72. Kits in that range are around $20 or less, and the newest kit tooling by Dragon, Revell, Trupeter, Academy, etc is very good indeed. In 1/35, kit prices $25 to $60, in my opinion, Hobbies Unlimited has a slightly better selection. I wouldn’t be surprised if each store had something the other didn’t, and I could find something for myself or for a gift for a beginner or an expert in either store. In 1/35 you get Dragon, Italeri, Academy, Trumpeter, Tasca and industry leader Tamiya, as well as Zeveda, AFV Club, Bronco and many others.

      In figures (generally soldiers, one or two sets of non-soldiers in each scale) I think Berkeley Ace has a slight advantage
      It would not be a mistake to visit either of these stores.

      I have heard good things about the people at Hobbyland USA in Concord. I visited once many years ago and its fairly large, well lit, plastic models are one one part of their offerings. These are your three best bets in the East Bay, from my experience.

      Among tank and military kits, Airfix kits are almost all extremely old, somewhat simplified and robust. Fujimi, Hasegwa and Esci / Italeri also have a large number of older kits in their catalogs. Some are quite splendid, full of parts and interest, some are simplified to the point of not being much fun. The earliest, very old, kits are not as accurate as we’ve come to expect. There are a number of Eastern European makers, and I’ve bought some of their kits but not built any of them, yet.

      I’d give Berkeley Ace Hardware a slight edge on paints, because they have the Testor’s Acryl line, as well as acrylic paint from Tamiya, Gunzie Sangyo and Hubroil. I use and recommend the blue label liquid cement from Testors – non toxic, though flamible. Interesting trick, that. I also highly recommend Polly Scale and Testor’s Acryl paint. Like any latex paint, you have to stir and stir and check it and then stir some more.

      If you’d like to brave a bridge, Talbots has a a fair armor selection in San Mateo, J&M Hobby House have a slightly smaller selection, in San Carlos. Either of them is better stocked than Franciscan, Hobby Company or Chan’s Trains and Hobbies in San Francisco.

      Almost all tank kits come with no interior contents, any exceptions being notable. ESCI/Italeri and Fujimi have rather old 1/76 or 1/72 M4A1 Medium “Sherman” tanks with a bunch of inside details. The ESCI/Italeri kit is said to be the better. Most people who are new to tanks will be surprised that there’s an “airplane” type round engine in the M4A1, but that is how they were built, M4 and M4A1 both. Fujimi have what appears to be the M4A3’s Ford V8 in their 1/76 M4A1…

      In 1/48, a new, “midsize” scale that Tamiya started using and a few others have joined, Hobby Boss have a series of T-34 Russian tanks (T-34/76 and T-34/85) with about 400 parts, because the kit has a full interior! You can lift the top off to see it. Priced around $20 they are clearly the bargain if the 1/48 scale is acceptable and the builder is happy with a lot of smaller parts.

      In 1/35, the Academy M3A1 Stuart/”Honey” has an interior, at least where the people are, and AFV Club make a T-34 with a transparent hull and full interior. Academy also have a WWII German Tiger tank with full interior- again, lift the top to see what’s inside.

      Other than that, you’re doing well if the main gun has a breach, etc, inside the turret. Seats in the turret, if they should be there, are a real distinction, as are seats and controls for the driver. Because of the paucity of windows, the actual interiors of tanks tend to be a light color – glossy white isn’t unusual, or a light buff or beige. Not dark green or even sand color. But the inside of the hatches will be the same as the outside, so that the camouflage isn’t disturbed when a hatch is opened.

      I’d be delighted to hear where you went, what you saw and thought, what you or your son picked out.


    • Alas, then moved to the larger retail space over by Orchard Supply hardware next to Lawrence Expressway, and had a nice selection of kits, Humbrol acrylic paint, lots of game and RC stuff, but they appear to have been loosing money, and closed before the 2015 Christmas season. It wasn’t the same as the “old” D&J but it was largeish, with fair stock. Too many square feet and too much rent, I imagine.

      Sheldon’s Hobbies out near the Great Mall (aka former Ford assembly plant in Milpitas…) and Hobby Town USA in Sunnyvale / Mountain View are the only regular South Bay sources of model kits that I’m aware of.

      Then Talbot’s and J & M on the Penninsula, and Hobbies Unlimited, Good-Better-Best in Alameda and Berkeley Ace Hardware, at their new location, in the East Bay.

      Chan’s by Fort Mason, the little place out near 19th Ave and Clement, and, the Japan Center models and figures store are all that’s left in San Francisco.

    • The usual story of a local business aging not very well. Big on plastic models, big on trains, big on balsa airplanes and RC stuff. In boom times, expanded into adjacent storefront, increased Crafts and doll house stuff. Market and customer base changed. Plastic models have grown upscale as builders aged and younger modelers not picking it up as much. Existing base of 1960s-1980s molds still in production. Remarkable modern kits of evergreen subjects like Spitfires, P-51s, Me-109s, Zeros, Corvettes, Mustangs, 737s, Sherman and Tiger tanks etc.
      Mail order went to internet, lots of sources, lots of discounts. RC cars, planes and boats are now the cash cow. RC-only shops with no plastic kits can succeed. D&J had too many square feet chasing too few customer dollars. Not so many young nerds looking for clerk jobs. Quite technical products, untrained clerks AND customers, not a recipe for repeat sales. Neighborhood shops like J&M Hobby House, Hobbies Unlimited and Sheldon’s are like Kirk’s and Clark’s and Emil Villa’s. Historic places that won’t survive their next change in ownership. Hobby Lobby (urgh) and Hobbytown USA are sucking all the capital out of the retail side, most places I used to go are gone now.

      Talbot’s has downsized their kits and RC stuff twice now, Berkeley Ace Hardware kits and trains shrank from half the basement to 3 aisles. There will always be niche markets, and suppliers. But the planes, trains and slot cars boom is over.

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