June 11, 2017
What started off as a way for a father to bond with his son turned into a Victoria business, which has been serving the remote control community for more than 30 years through the sale of remote control parts, accessories and vehicles.
When Erwin Rother’s son, David Rother, wanted a remote control airplane for Christmas, he had no idea that the remote control plane wasn’t going to be the only thing taking off that holiday season.
His passion for remote control hobbies soared as well.
There wasn’t a hobby shop in Victoria when Rother sought a plane for his son, so they had to drive to San Antonio to get one. They spent about $500 and ended up getting the wrong type of plane, as was pointed out to them later.
“When we went to the guy who said he was going to help us, he asked us why did we buy that kind of airplane,” Rother said. “We asked what was wrong, and he said that the airplane that we bought wasn’t a trainer airplane.”
On the first day of trying to fly it, his son crashed the plane twice and decided he didn’t want to fly remote control planes anymore.
About a month later, though, his son asked if they could try flying again, but this time he got the right plane to learn on. The two of them went out and bought a trainer plane and, as Rother said “that’s history.”
The Victoria Hobby Shop was born.
Hoping to avoid these sorts of instances happening to anyone else, Rother makes it a point help people with their purchasing decisions.
“We’ve had a lot of experience doing it, and we can kind of direct people into the right path,” Rother said.
Walking into the shop makes a patron question if it’s the right place, especially because visitors are greeted by a gazebo, which is set up in the middle of shop floor surrounded by various garden decorations. But a quick walk around the gazebo will lead to the hobby shop, where a display table and a sign hanging from the ceiling greet customers.
“I asked my wife a time or two if we can put the hobby shop up front or at least on the front side,” Rother said. “She didn’t want to give up her space, so we moved it back where we used to have the floral department and so that’s where we’ve been all these years.”
In the 1980s, Rother set up an indoor remote control race track in the back of his shop, which ended up being the only indoor race track in Texas. Word spread about the indoor track, and eventually Rother was conducting races on the track, which would draw people from all over Texas.
“We had to cut the entries off at 200 people,” Rother said.
They got permission to use the then-vacant lot across the street where people would park cars and campers, pitch tents and camp out.
This happened every year for about seven years, Rother said. It was always two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday. The event became such a hit that La Quinta hotels would put on their billboards, “Welcome Victoria Hobby Shop Racers,” Rother said.
Shortly after that, Rother and his son became interested in remote control boats, at least up until his son became interested in dating.
“My son was now between 16 and 18 years old . . . and left the old man to play with his airplanes while he went off chasing girls and doing other things,” Rother said through a laugh.
Rother’s son eventually decided to set up his own shop selling car stereo equipment and installations. He had planned to set up the shop, called Hi-Pro Audio, next door to the hobby shop. But he was killed in a car wreck a few weeks before the construction was finished. He was 24 years old.
“It was a real blow,” Rother said.
The car stereo business is still in the family. It is operated by Rother’s son-in-law, Henry Hosek, and grandson, Justin Hosek.
Through 30 years of being in the remote control hobby business, Rother, who is now 76, has seen a lot of changes, most notably with the rise of internet sales. However, he still has his share of business, which he said he is happy with.
He is now seeing the second generation of customers.
Rother is proud of the business he has and of the people of Victoria for doing business with him for so many years.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Rother said. “I thank my Lord and Savior for giving me my health and the life that he has given me for being able to enjoy it this many years.”