Small Niche Business Owners Share How They Manage To Keep The Lights On

Small Niche Business Owners Share How They Manage To Keep The Lights On

[rebelmouse-image 18360055 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

Owning your own business is really the dream for quite a few people. The thing is, nobody really thinks about opening a small Wal-Mart or something. The mom & pop shops we imagine are almost always something special that we love to do. Love beekeeping? Want to sell local honey? Cool. But how are you going to afford a shop and compete with the honey that exists at every grocery store ever? One Reddit user really wanted to know:

Redditors who own niche hobby shops like model shops, how the hell do you make enough money to stay afloat?

The responses gave us some great ideas on ways we can make our own business better, honestly. So thanks Reddit!

Forget Walk-By Traffic

[rebelmouse-image 18360056 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I run a small model shop. Mostly planes. I stay afloat because I cut way back on rent by renting out a small and less desirable shop location. Model shops attract customers who have considered what they want and don't typically rely on walk-by traffic.

No Money, Just Geeks

[rebelmouse-image 18360057 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

There's an absolutely decrepit-looking model train shop in town. It's in the middle of nowhere and has faded signage that looks like it's from the '70s. Open like 2 days a week for a couple of hours.

Drove by it one day with a townie who seems to know everything about everyone in the city and I commented about how I didn't understand that place. He told me it was ran by a retiree who just does it as a hobby. Probably doesn't make a dime, just has a fancy clubhouse that pulls in fellow enthusiasts/geeks to talk with.

It kind of sort of makes sense if you've retired with a little money to burn.

Broke Kids And Cheap Snacks

[rebelmouse-image 18360058 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

There's a place where I live that I think started out as a boardgame shop but branched out into being a place where people could actually gather with their friends and play those games. They also started serving food and got a liquor license. They're absolutely killing it - place is packed every night. Esp. popular with the student crowd as the food and drinks are cheap and the "cover charge" for unlimited stay and play is like $5 or something. Floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with games of all sorts, not-too-complex yet tasty food that's easy to handle and munch on while playing, good amount of tables, nice vibe/employees & owners, etc. Pretty neat place.

Could be an idea for people reading this thread who are thinking about starting/expanding on their own small business.

Wait Out The Competition

[rebelmouse-image 18360059 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I work in a model shop (kits, trains, RC cars and aircraft). Due to other model shops in the UK shutting down we're quite few and far between, so we get customers from all over our county coming to buy things. In general business is quite good, enough to stay open at least


[rebelmouse-image 18344955 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

My Dad used to own a shop that sold model trains and mostly he made money selling on eBay. He'd paint them and build landscape and stuff and sell on eBay. There was little profit from the brick & mortar store itself.

On The Road

[rebelmouse-image 18360060 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I lived in a small, very rural town in Texas that had an amazing BBQ restaurant that struggled for years because the local crowd just wasn't large enough to really keep it afloat. The locals were loyal, just not enough of them, and the off-the-beaten-path tourist trade was a hit-or-miss proposition at best, not to mention very seasonal.

The owners were locals who were invested in the community, owned the building, employed other locals and really wanted to stay in business but really didn't want to move at the same time they couldn't eke out much of an existence without moving. Quite the conundrum.

Until they figured out the far flung oilfield workers didn't have time to come into town to get meals. They started running multiple trucks out to the oilfields every day packed with BBQ, and sold out as much as they could keep up with. They were so busy making so much money taking their product to the customers they shut down the dining room of the restaurant--the part that wasn't all that profitable anyway--and they're still going great guns because they found a way to keep doing a good thing for a customer base that is willing to pay to have it brought to them. Win-win.

Break It, Buy It, Break It Again

[rebelmouse-image 18360061 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

RC Car hobby shop by me, has an indoor race track. The race track keeps them alive. You come and race, break your car, buy parts, race some more.

Cardboard Crack

[rebelmouse-image 18360062 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

Game shops, that sell board games and tabletop RPGs and the like, stay afloat almost entirely through the cardboard crack that is Magic: the Gathering.

It's A Display

[rebelmouse-image 18360063 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

So I know someone who runs a multimedia shop, his sales are primarily in trading card game sales and board games.

In his case, he owns the building and is self-employed, so the regular expenses aren't too bad. His main earnings come from attending various conventions big and small, and selling them online through our version of eBay.

The physical shop is more of a display that people browse through for things they might be interested in.

Honor System

[rebelmouse-image 18360064 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

In a suburb where my friend lives there is a fruit and vegetable shop that only has a handful of items and often sells out of things and closes at 11am. It is run by old people who own the building and live upstairs. They just run it for something to do.

Even more bizarre (to most people not from here,) they'll have an unmanned stand at the end of their driveway with a price list and a money jar. Take what you want and put the money in the jar, honor system.


[rebelmouse-image 18360065 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I used to work at a pottery painting studio. While working there we saw tons of other pottery places go in and out of businesses, the owner told me in the fifteen years she'd had it open she'd seen 15 go up and down.

She told me she was able to keep it open because she's a real estate agent and refers to it as a "non profit" because she makes no money from it. She loves it though.

Three Things In Common

[rebelmouse-image 18360066 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

The yarn and knitting/ crochet shops near me tend to have three things in common:

  1. They leverage social interaction. They provide big group tables where people can sit and craft and chat and make new friends, and they offer drop-in classes or coffee hours.
  2. They carry some high-end products that chain hobby shops don't. If people come in for #1 often enough, eventually that hand-painted silk/alpaca blend might crack them.
  3. They are run by retirees who don't rely on the shop as their sole source of income.

Lemonade Stand

[rebelmouse-image 18360067 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I know someone with a geocaching shop. He makes money selling lemonade to people passing buy. And his wife has a proper job. His core business is next to nothing.

Thankless Community

[rebelmouse-image 18360068 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

My parents owned a card store. Baseball, basketball, magic, yugioh and all of that.

It basically broke even, but youth needed something to do so they'd come in and play magic or warhammer or something for a few hours.

It was either barely broke a profit or had a small loss for a decade, but was something they did to help out the community. I got a lot of experience running register or playing card games I suppose.

Then one day someone broke the back door down and stole a bunch of stuff, and my parents decided that if that was what their reward was for trying to help out people in the community then they weren't going to bother so they just closed up shop.

Responses were split 50/50 between people being understanding and people complaining they didn't have any place to throw their kids at now and that we should have stayed open anyway ignoring that they'd have to go into debt to re-buy stock that was stolen and that if they did it would probably just get broken into over and over again.

Partnerships And Design

[rebelmouse-image 18360069 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I know someone who owns a small train modelling shop, he makes money through partnership with model manufacturers, hiring booths in modelling shows as well as designing his own models and selling them. Niche markets such as railway modelling relies more on reputation and how established they are, so he saves money by operating out of less desirable locations as well as modelling at home.

Cheaper Than A Locker

[rebelmouse-image 18360070 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

Dad used to run a model train store in a dying mall. He used it mainly as a storage space since it was cheaper than a locker and has always primarily sold on eBay

Creative Taxes

[rebelmouse-image 18360071 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

A buddy of mine has parents that own a hobby shop. They do 3 things.

  1. They sell games and CCG stuff, which takes up less than a quarter of their shop.
  2. They cultivate clients through conventions, Meetup groups, host events, and they really work on developing relationships.
  3. They get real creative with the taxes. The husband owns the business and the wife instead the property, so the husband makes virtually zero money but his business pays his wife (the landlord) almost every dime in rent. There is more but that's all I can remember.

Keep It Clean

[rebelmouse-image 18345106 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

I work at a board game store, one of the top teir levels with Asmodee (most modern board games, we are a top 100 Asmodee store) and Wizards of th Coast (Magic, advanced premium store).

We have been told our service and cleanliness and variety of stock keep them coming back despite not going below MSRP. Probably toss in my "i have played way to many games and read too much gaming history" to get reviews of how we were able to quickly give info on specific games. We get lots of non saavy gamers, which is a big demographic.

A Point of Sale system with SQL has been a fantastic plus, as i can get many metrics to analyze and save craptons of time with stock.

Corner The Student Market

[rebelmouse-image 18360072 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

My model shop sells supplies to the architecture students. It's the only place I can get basswood I-beam, scale figures, and tiny mesh. The other students and I spend $100+ when we go.

Only Used For Events

[rebelmouse-image 18353769 is_animated_gif= dam=1 expand=1]

Yeah I used to live near a store front that said it was a high end crafts and hobby retailer. I never saw it open. The one day at like 8pm I walked by and it was open. I stepped inside and there was a lady setting displays and tables. She said hello and asked if I wanted help with anything. I said that I just wanted to ask how she stays in business because this is the first time I have ever seen the shop open. And she says "oh! The internet honey! This place is only used for events for the local hobby community."

It made so much more sense to me after that. She said he husband owned the building and ran a hardware store for decades but home depot arrived one day. So they looked into selling and it wasn't as profitable as they would have liked so they rented it out for a few years and then she moved her business into it. After the internet became ubiquitous she was losing business and then found out running a small store online was way easier than she had imagined. And now it is what it is.

H/T: Reddit

People Reveal The Strangest Internet Rabbit Holes They've Ever Gone Down
Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

The internet is so fascinating.

And messy.

Thanks to YouTube and TikTok, so many hours can be spent lost in the world of video.

You pick a simple topic or name to check, and then it's tomorrow... and you've binged every army family reunion story.

And so much time to waste, depending on your keystroke choices.

Keep reading...Show less

CW: Graphic imagery and accidents.

No one leaves this life without scars.

We witness so many awful things on a daily basis.

How could we not be followed by it all?

Messed up things are just part of the deal of living I guess.

One minute you're walking along on a bright sunny day, then boom, you're a witness to a murder.

Or some such craziness.

That's why I stay home a lot.

Keep reading...Show less
Two women smiling flirtatiously at each other
Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Let's just be honest: the dating scene can be rough, especially when you're not sure if that person likes you back or not.

Some people, however, are very comfortable with their dating histories and believe there's a certain "cheat code" to confirming if someone is interested.

But for those of us who have always been bad at flirting and consider ourselves "oblivious" to other people's advances and compliments, maybe there could be some hope for us after all with these tips.

Keep reading...Show less
Couple on roof with candles, overlooking city
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Anyone with any amount of dating experience knows at least a few things that they love in a relationship and a few things they find unsavory.

Just like discovering our boundaries and what qualifies as a relationship deal breaker, most of us generally have a few rules that we tend to live by in every relationship, whether it's romantic, platonic, or professional.

Keep reading...Show less