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    Hobbyist is building his model business

    By CHRISTINE COSDON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000


    The small vestibule in Porter's Model Engineering shop gives just a hint of the treasures in the rooms beyond.

    Model planes hang from the ceiling, and trains and boats are displayed in showcases and stored in boxes that take up just about all the wall space of the room. A 5-foot-long handmade, radio-controlled gunboat is perched high on a ledge.

    A short walk from the vestibule through a hallway opens to a huge workshop and a separate "rummage" room where customers can spend time digging through tables and boxes filled with model trains, boats, planes and parts.

    The newly opened 2,100-square-foot hobby shop at 951 Broadway in Dunedin is Carl Porter's dream, one that he had for a long time but couldn't act on until after he retired six months ago.

    "I've been a hobbyist all my life, and this is something I've wanted to do for a lot of years," said Porter, 55, of Dunedin. He said he can't remember when he wasn't building planes and boats and collecting trains.

    Porter, an industrial engineer who worked for Fotomat, Konica, Wal-Mart and Qualex, hired a longtime friend, Gary Hughes, as his store manager. Hughes, 71, of Clearwater has been a hobbyist all his life, too, and had hobby-related businesses in Pinellas County for more than 20 years. One of his shops, Gary's Hobbies, was on Dunedin's Main Street for several years, he said.

    Back in the workshop, the men are in the process of building a 4-foot-long model railroad station in hardwood to be part of an outdoor train course. Porter is also building a 6-foot-long radio-controlled destroyer.

    Porter said his initial investment in the business was $25,000. He has spent a lot more since then, he said, in buying inventory from estates, auctions and shows. He and Hughes recently came back from an estate sale with boxes containing more than 2,000 new and used trains and parts.

    Trains in the shop range in size from the small N-gauge of several inches long to the large Z-gauge, measuring several feet in length. At the N-gauge size, individual cars can be purchased for $5. A large Casey Jones or circus train set, each with an engine, track and three cars, costs $150.

    Model planes range from $50 for a glider kit, without the radio controls, to $360 for a 1916 Sopwith Strutter minus the radio equipment. Plan to spend at least $300 to $400 for a start-up radio-controlled plane, Porter said. The shop has stick-and-tissue plane kits priced from $5 to $50.

    "We're also stocking rockets and accessories and electric planes," Porter said. The shop also has some model cars.

    Shop hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. "But we're usually here during the week, working," Porter said. Call 799-4210.

    Tarpon bank helps boosts profits, names president

    The parent company of First National Bank of Tarpon Springs has announced that its acquisition of First National in February helped fuel the company's third-quarter profits.

    Overall, the consolidated net loans of Community National Bancorporation, based in Ashburn, Ga., grew from $104.6-million in September 1999 to $156.6-million a year later. Of that, First National Bank of Tarpon Springs accounted for nearly $20-million of the loan growth.

    As a result, net interest income increased 42.4 percent, from $4.2-million at the end of the third quarter 1999 to $6-million a year later.

    In addition, First National Bank of Tarpon Springs contributed $25-million to the growth of the holding company's deposits, and that growth fueled a 29.6 percent increase in shareholder equity.

    In addition to First National Bank of Tarpon Springs at 710 E Tarpon Ave., Community National Bancorporation also owns the Community National Bank in Ashburn, Ga. and the Cumberland National Bank in St. Mary's, Ga. The holding company's total assets are $193-million, a 52 percent year-to-date increase.

    W. Durand Childers, who joined the Tarpon Springs bank in February as executive vice president and senior lending officer, has been appointed president and chief executive officer. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the Tennessee School of Banking.

    James R. Dowdy IV, most recently a loan officer and security adviser with Community National Bank in Ashburn, has joined the Tarpon Springs bank as a loan officer. He has a finance degree from the University of Georgia.

    Self-storage center gets new name, makeover

    Master Key Storage facility at 1675 Starkey Road, Largo, was purchased earlier this year for $2.9-million by Mucci Development and Barclay Group of the Tampa Bay area. Now it has a new name -- Superior Self Storage -- and a new look.

    The owners recently have completed renovating the property and increased the size of the storage area from from 674 to 906 units. The units include 351 climate-controlled spaces and 555 garage-type spaces, as well as some outside storage, said Wayne Mucci. The total area is 80,000 square feet.

    Synergy Storage Group is managing the storage center, Mucci said, and Kathy Ewing is manager.

    More airport contracts for local contractor

    Creative Contractors of Clearwater has added two more projects to its current contract with Hillsborough County Aviation Authority for renovations and additions to Airside F. The expanded contract now includes a new terrazzo floor and construction of U.S. Airways Club and offices. The additions bring the company's airport contracts to more than $13-million.

    Kelly Taffe Design of Tampa has designed the custom epoxy terrazzo floor to resemble a golf course complete with tropical gardens and a fountain. Completion of construction is scheduled for March 2001.

    The 9,000-square-foot club and offices have been designed by the architectural firm of Pierce Goodwin Alexander and Linville of Alexandria, Va. This project is to be competed by mid 2001.

    Creative Contractors is a 26-year-old firm, headed by Alan C. Bomstein, at 620 Drew St.

    - News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119 or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.

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