Geoff Stubbs’ model shop on West Street has been a presence in Oundle for forty-two years, and attracts customers from a fifty-mile radius. His shop is well known for the selection of flying model aircraft.
The store is piled high with a vast quantity and variety of kits, alongside raw materials such as wood and paint supplies. The small shop uses every inch of space to give customers the maximum choice.
Hanging from the ceiling of the shop are handsome wooden aircraft made by Mr Stubbs from vintage kits, with customised petrol engines. Without the control of a remote radio, small adjustments in the tail help direct flight around a field. Other than that, “you set them off and then fetch them”.
Mr Stubbs grew up near RAF Cottesmore, which is where his fascination with aircraft started. This led to an interest in building aircraft models, which took him naturally to his own shop, where he also lives.
Mr Stubbs has many loyal customers who are interested in his models and travel from afar to visit his specialist shop. Despite this, the turnover is only two-thirds of what it was ten years ago; he has seen greater changes in the past few years than in the past 30 years. Although there are no other nearby shops, even in Corby or Peterborough, there are other ways to buy kits and materials, such as online.
He also finds that younger people are more interested in the control methods of the aircraft, rather than the model making itself.
Mr Stubbs said: “Most of the people doing flying models now are a little bit older. It’s quite a grown-up thing to be doing.” Meaning the younger generation is missing out on the thrill of crafting an intricate, realistic model.
Model making enjoyed a boom in the 1960s and 70s when models of military vehicles increased in popularity, alongside a renewed interest in model aircraft. At the heart of this surge in model making was Airfix, which sells plastic aircraft and other military vehicles, as well as automobiles.
He stresses that his main line is flying model aircrafts. Mr Stubbs sells numerous Airfix products as well as Revell models in his shop, alongside boxes of radio-controlled models that need to be assembled, rather than built. Mr Stubbs also sells raw materials such as bolts and plywood for makers who want to build models from scratch.
“That’s what the older section of the community comes in for. They mostly belong to model aero clubs in the area.”
There is a model aero club in Oundle that uses a field near Castor in which to fly wooden and plastic aircraft equipped with either remote control or small petrol engines.
He also stocks a selection of elaborate galleon models that are usually purchased to be given to men as retirement presents. “That keeps them quiet for the next ten years,’ he said.
Now in his 80s, Mr Stubbs has seen many generations come through his shop, and his influence has been life-enhancing. Two of his customers started buying aircraft models when they were 12 years old. They are now in the 50s, and have left Oundle, but still return to town to visit and buy models from Geoff Stubbs. Only now, they also both have full-size aircraft.
“Their families blame me for encouraging them with models. They then had to get real ones!” he said.
By Toby Warner