The Other Side of the Tree Line: Brandon Mundell

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The Other Side of the Tree Line: Brandon Mundell

The Other Side of the Tree Line: Brandon Mundell

Clarissa Poston interviews Brandon Mundell, Owner of Toys Forever Models & Hobbies

As seen in the Spring 2023 issue of Park Pilot.

Clarissa Poston: How did you fi rst get involved in the hobby business?

Brandon Mundell: When I was 16, I needed to get a job, as that was the expectation of my family. To this day, I don’t enjoy cleaning up after myself or others,  so I didn’t want to do food service. I grabbed a phone book and found a nearby hobby shop. I knew the owners of it through church and asked them if they were  hiring. The owner gave me a chance, and I was there all the way through my high school years.

CP: What kind of products and services do you offer?

BM: Our shop is a full-line hobby shop. We have RC equipment, aircraft service; we have plastic model kits, we have all the paints and glues that go along with  that; we have a model railroading section; we also are a combination toy and hobby store, so we have toy equipment and educational toys for people of all ages.  o really, I mean, the  shop has a huge variety. There are over 30,000 items in the room where I’m standing right now.

CP: What would you recommend to a beginner interested in aeromodeling?

Brandon Mundell does a great job at educating others on different models, how to fly, and so much more! He is a fantastic resour

Brandon Mundell does a great job at educating others on different models, how to fly, and so much more! He is a fantastic resource for inquisitive minds.

BM: Probably the most important thing—and I sort of preach it almost every day in here—is to have someone help you learn how to fl y. I myself, as part of our  shop service, offer that to people if they want to learn how to fly—we take our E-flite Apprentice out and teach people how to fl y. So that would be the first  thing, because putting it up by yourself to me is sort of a guaranteed crash. The next thing beyond that is go to a facility that’s designed to fly. People come into the store all the time (our store is near the AMA Headquarters) and say, “Oh, I’ve got a big field,” and I say, “Not big enough,” and we banter back and forth. I say  that they should go to the facility that we fly at here in town, because it’s 1,100 acres and it’s designed for this stuff.

The amount of space you need is sort of  boggling to most people’s minds. When you’re flying at an AMA facility, it’s designed to be safe, and they can teach you how to be safe— and the most important  part about flying is being safe.

CP: How has the pandemic impacted hobby shops?

BM: It’s been phenomenal for all of us. The year 2020 was a great year for us, even though we had to sort of figure out how to do it from the beginning. Since  people weren’t going places, locally or even traveling for leisure or going to sporting events or whatever, they had to turn to something else to be entertained. So,  hobbies, games, and toys became something that they turned to. That continued through 2021, which was a phenomenal year for all of us. Most of us were  just trying to keep up every day. The year 2022 had a little bit of a cooling; people were getting back to what life’s got to look like, but so far 2023 looks as good  as 2021 was. I can’t say that’s going to be the long-term trend, but we’re a couple of months in and it looks good so far. I think our industry is going to enjoy  some pretty good stuff for at least the foreseeable future.

CP: What benefits does flying electric aircraft have, as opposed to nonelectric aircraft?

BM: The nice thing about the electric revolution, in my opinion, is that it does make it more accessible to the person who is not as mechanically inclined as, say, I am.

Nitromethane-powered engines, which are the traditional alternative, if you will, can be finnicky. They’re not super hard to use, but you have to understand  how a carburetor works—you have to understand that there are miniature diesel engines—so to get it running takes some knowledge or some  willingness to learn and then tinker with it. For an electric one, you plug it in and it runs, which is much easier, especially for beginners. I’m not opposed to the internal combustion thing, but it has made things more accessible.

The other nice thing from the electric revolution is that now we also have the ability to have gasoline engines that are fairly small. So, when you get to the point  when the battery tarts becoming cost prohibitive, we have a jump from there to a then electronically controlled spar-ignition gasoline engine that’s going to have an easier learning curve, because it’s basically like your weedwhacker that you probably have at home already.

When I started in the hobby business in the mid-90s, the people who were into RC airplanes and hobbies in general were very much hands-on, they wanted to  learn how to build it, they wanted to know how to make things work and tinker—today’s hobby shop is now more a service center. People who come in don’t  necessarily want to learn that technical stuff; they just want to enjoy the hobby of, let’s say, flying an airplane. We don’t want to learn how it happens anymore— we just want it to happen. I think that’s a society thing, for good or bad. I’m not going to make a judgement, but that’s changed how we do it as a business then,  too.

Brandon is pictured in his hobby shop, Toys Forever Models & Hobbies. With an extremely inviting atmosphere, the smiles are cont

Brandon is pictured in his hobby shop, Toys Forever Models & Hobbies. With an extremely inviting atmosphere, the smiles are contagious!

CP: Are there any new innovations that you’re intrigued by in the aeromodeling hobby?

BM: There isn’t anything directly that I can tag. Everything right now is very sort of evolutionary. We’re seeing improvements in radio technology, but there’s not a  revolution happening there. We’re seeing airplanes available, more accessible—but there’s nothing revolutionary that I’m seeing right now. Roughly 5-10  years ago, the industry was dabbling in the multirotor thing, and that sort of has passed a little bit. It’s interesting that the market seems to have shifted back to the traditional aircraft. I think there’s probably going to be more advances in batteries, and we’ll see more radio equipment and stuff like that.

CP: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

BM: The number-one thing that I think all of us can do is to be a good model for all other model aviators. Fly safely, fly at proper places, be an AMA member if  you’re not already, and encourage everybody you know to operate within the guidelines because they’re there to make it good for everybody in our industry.


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