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A.B. Charles Hobby Shop moves to Peters in search of higher profit, lower taxes

| Sunday, March 24, 2013, 11:15 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sue Anne Charles packs merchandise into moving boxes, Thursday, March 21st, 2013, as A.B. Charles Hobby Shop in Mt. Lebanon prepares to move to a new location in Peters.
After 68 years in the Dormont/Mt/ Lebanon area, A.B. Charles Hobby Shop is moving to a new location in Peters.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
After 68 years in the Dormont/Mt/ Lebanon area, A.B. Charles Hobby Shop is moving to a new location in Peters.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sue Anne Charles packs merchandise into moving boxes, Thursday, March 21st, 2013, as A.B. Charles Hobby Shop in Mt. Lebanon prepares to move to a new location in Peters.

They're all gone — the rooms filled with classic cars and hot rods, enough trains to run a short-line railroad, miniature war machines and whizzing slot-car tracks.

After 68 years in Dormont and Mt. Lebanon, staff at A.B. Charles Hobby Shop spent the past week emptying a big red barn full of models, magazines and parts, moving the store to a smaller space in Peters, where owner Scott Charles hopes he'll find lower taxes and an affluent clientele.

“It's the Cranberry of the South Hills,” Charles said. “Canonsburg has more Mercedeses than Mt. Lebanon now.”

Unlike the business's move from Dormont to Mt. Lebanon in 2007, Charles did not anticipate much down time for the business.

Instead of going to a storage unit until finding a space, he moved inventory from the old shop to the new one near Donaldson's Crossroads shopping center. He hopes to open in April.

The “barn,” once the home of Rollier's Hardware, was larger than the Peters shop but had lots of “lost space” in its corridors, separate rooms and storage areas, Charles said.

The new location will have the same variety of goods, including model cars, trains, building toys, airplanes, model-making and painting supplies and scrapbooking materials. The only casualty will be the shop's basement room of slot-car racing tracks, which hosted the Pittsburgh Slotcar Racing League's weekly meets.

“Everybody at the league is a little upset about the move from A.B. Charles, since they've been a South Hills institution since 1945,” said founder John Williams, 42, of Brookline. “My grandfather would take me or my dad would take me there.”

The league bought two of the store's tracks and is relocating them to Legions Hobbies & Games in Ross, Williams said.

Other members of the slot-car circuit, such as John Bamonte of the Western Pennsylvania Slot Car Club, are sad to see the tracks go but glad the business survived.

“I would occasionally shop there for modeling supplies, paint, some train stuff there,” said Bamonte, 54, of Pine. “They were a well-known, venerable shop. ... I'm glad they're staying alive.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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