Business of the week: 308 Hobbies, world famous model shop in Holloway Road
PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 April 2017
In a weekly feature, we profile a fascinating company doing business here in Islington. This week, we visit 308 Hobbies, which has been selling radio-controlled models in Holloway Road since 1946.
Nearly all of Holloway Road’s old school shops have been driven out. But 308 Hobbies is one of the last standing.
H J Nicholls and Son, its official name, opened at number 308 in 1946. To this day, the shop still sells radio-controlled planes, as well as cars, boats and helicopters.
Opened on part of the Sainsbury’s site that was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War, 308 is the oldest model shop in the UK and attracts visitors from across the country.
Owner Richard Harris, 68, was born in Myddelton Square, Finsbury. As a boy, he would peer longingly through the shop window.
Seventeen years ago, Richard had just entered retirement. But he couldn’t resist the offer to take over running the shop.
“It’s one of the most famous model shops in the world,” he says.
“I first came here when I was nine years old. I’d stare through the window at all the models and when I got a paper round, I would spend all my pennies on model parts.”
In those days, all of the models, engines and parts were manufactured and tested on site. Today, however, they are all bought in.
Richard continues: “The business has always officially been ‘H J Nicholls and Son’, but no one has ever called it that. Everyone who has ever visited the shop has called it ‘308’.
“I retired 17 years ago. Before me, it had passed through three generations of the Nicholls family and I knew them all.
“I was in the shop and was asked if I wanted to take over. So it was a short-lived retirement!”
But Richard, of Highbury, adds: “It’s my hobby, and always has been, but I’m finally looking to retire – again – later this year if someone will take over the shop.”