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Home Actualités (mis à jour le 13 août '10) World’s biggest retailer of models; Udisco has 80,000 items in stock

World’s biggest retailer of models; Udisco has 80,000 items in stock

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MauvaisTrès bien 
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If you are looking for models of planes, trains, cars or boats, the place to find them is Udisco. The somewhat nondescript retail location on Decarie Blvd looks much smaller from the outside than it does inside. Step in and you will probably be amazed by the showroom with aisle after aisle piled high with plastic, steel, or wooden models. But then, if you follow the yellow line through the store and up the stairs, there is an even bigger showroom on the second floor.

“Most hobby shops are between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet, but I have 60,000 square feet here,” says owner Lyon Kunin. “I carry some 80,000 different SKUs (stock keeping units), with perhaps a few dozen items in some units. So no, I don’t really have any competition; there is no other store like this in Canada. Actually, I don’t know of any other store like this worldwide.”

Udisco’s Lyon Kunin points to many models of trains, planes, tanks, and rockets

Kunin relates anecdotes of customers coming into his store from the four corners of the world, sometimes driving hundreds of kilometres simply to shop at his store and then return home the same day. People typically walk into his store for the first time and exclaim, “Look at the size of this place!” Customers are also invariably impressed with the selection, good prices and service provided by Udisco’s 23 employees.

The variety is stunning for different plastic models, electric trains, remote control planes, boats, cars, and helicopters, to premium balsa wood, figurines, puzzles, die cast, and much more. Udisco also stocks a wide assortment of accessories, including paint, brushes, tools, and coverings. The store carries products from some 600 international suppliers, and is the exclusive Canadian distributor for some.

“We also carry materials for building dollhouses,” continues Kunin. “But we found it problematic carrying furniture for dollhouses,” he adds with a wink.

Because toys can break, Udisco also carries a wide variety of parts and fittings, and maintains an inventory of spare parts for almost everything they sell.  Sometimes Udisco’s expert machinists are able to custom produce parts no longer available on the market. “Good service is built into our prices,” explains Kunin. An employee demonstrating how to fly battery-powered radio-controlled helicopters added that a short lesson on how to fly the models is also included in the price.

The most expensive items sold at Udisco include $6,000 radio-controlled helicopters, $5,000 die cast locomotives, and $2,000 die cast cranes. The lowest-priced items include simple, snap-together plastic models of cars, boats, planes selling for about $2.

During our online research to verify Udisco’s breadth of selection, The Times typed in the name of a famous British-built fighter plane during World War II; we found 144 different models of Spitfires listed in the store’s catalogue for prices ranging from $4 to $326.

But Kunin contends that his store sells more than models and hobby supplies. “It’s called imagination. With these models, you learn to use imagination, you learn how things work. You learn the skills of how to build things.” He complains that youths today often don’t know how to hammer a nail into the wall. And part of the problem seems to all kinds of toys that are “ready-built” kits where kids follow instructions rather than use their imagination. Kunin cites the example of Lego toys that Udisco no longer carries. “Lego kits used to contain just be basic parts and kids then used their imaginations to put together in many different ways. Nowadays, Lego sells specialized parts that can only be made into one thing.”

“I came into the store last Saturday and worked with an employee to build a radar tower from scratch for our model train mock-up. The difficulty in making a radar tower was that we wanted part of the structure to rotate while lights flashed on the static parts. We pulled a servo from radio-controlled airplane kit, but had to isolate it. And we had to invent a way for it to pick up power without shorting out,” explained Kunin while proudly showing off the finished product.

Kunin contrasts this inventive spirit often necessary in building models with the “hands-off” attitudes displayed by much of the population. He even claims that one of his neighbours, a white collar professional, recently asked him--in all seriousness--how to change a light bulb.

Building models might even have a role in our education system as revealed by another of Kunin’s anecdotes: “One day we had a rush of college-aged kids coming in to buy pirate ship models and I asked one of them what this was all about. She told me that a history professor at Dawson had made it a course requirement to know and build a replica pirate ship. Students there were to be tested on the names of all the parts of the pirate ship.”

Kunin sees a wide age range within his target demographic, ranging from perhaps 12 to 50 years for those buying radio-controlled airplanes and from 20 to 90 years for those buying locomotive sets. He describes his customers as about 60% male and 40% female. He jokes about one couple among his frequent customers where it is the woman who is passionate about building model trains where her husband is less interested. “We call her ‘choo choo.’”

“Udisco has a lot to offer, but our problem is in making people aware of us,” continues Kunin. He wants to reach out to working class people and to professionals who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty.

“My father, Jack, founded the company. We’ve been here since 1942 and part of the current building was originally the Snowdon Farmhouse dating from the 1890s. Udisco used to be just a wholesaler, but the problem was that our retailers couldn’t maintain stock. So in 1995, we opened “temporarily” as a retail location and there was no turning back.” But despite being open to customers, Udisco also sells to retailers.

A diploma hanging on Kunin’s wall attests that he earned a commerce degree from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) in 1966. “I’m now 69 and why would I want to retire?” he asks. “I have much more fun here than I would sitting at home watching TV.”

Udisco wholesale hobbies

Mon--Wed: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm*

Thurs--Fri:           9:00 am to 9:00 pm

Saturday:             9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Sunday:                Closed


4660 Decarie Blvd. (btw Queen Mary & Cote St. Luc)

Metro: Snowdon / free parking on site

Montreal, Quebec

H3X 2H5 







Kunin was surprised to learn from a municipal worker a few years ago that Tourism Quebec has designated Udisco as a “destination venue” that draws tourists to Montreal. “The worker was here to repair a broken water pipe in the street and explained that he would try to get the repair done quickly given the importance of our store.”

He also jokes about learning how a television program from France called this store “the eighth wonder of the world.” According to Kunin, the journalist who produced the program did not tell him what she was doing and he only found out afterward how Udisco was being described in Europe.

A journalist from TV5 Monde (a major television network in France) came here once and made a program about our store, but didn’t tell me about it. I found out afterwards that the journalist called this store ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’

Finally, Udisco maintains a well-equipped service department that can service or repair almost anything we sell, including radios, engines, and other sophisticated parts.

80,000 different SKUs (stock keeping units), with perhaps a few dozen items in each unit

Trains, boats, rockets, airplanes, warships, radio-controlled airplanes,

Problem when dealers couldn’t maintain stock

So in December 1995 we opened ‘temporarily’ for 30 days

Don’t have competition; nothing else like this. Most hobby shops are between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet, but I have 60,000 square feet.

Biggest in Canada; haven’t seen anything else like this store anywhere in the world. I was in Honolulu recently and went into a hobby shop there that is about as big as my office at the Montreal store (about 300 square feet).

Customers from Canada, USA, England, Holland, China, etc.

We are a ‘destination store’ Quebec tourism. Found this out when water main broke and city worker said we had better get this fixed soon. Doormen at hotels send customers here

A journalist from TV5 Monde (a major television network in France) came here once and made a program about our store, but didn’t tell me about it. I found out afterwards that the journalist called this store ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’

When The Times typed in the name of a famous British-built fighter plane during World War II, we found 144 different models of Spitfires listed ranging in price from $4 to $326.

We don’t turn down business

Why want to retire (now 69)

Train layout Saturday radar signals

We’ve been here since 1942 and the company was founded by my father, Jack. Part of the building here used to be the original Snowdon Farmhouse dating from the 1890s. We also bought another farm belonging to the willock family. I remember in 1961 when they built the trench for the Decarie Expressway. I’ve been working here since 1966 and, starting in about 1980, my father took a backseat role. Diploma from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) dating from 1966, conferring kunin a commerce degree.

When people walk in they exclaim “look at the size of this place. Look this floor is even bigger than the other one. How much stock do you have?

13 aisles of up to 100 feet long, three sections each (some retailers would count this as 39 aisles).

We don’t have everything; we’re not in toy business. We don’t carry Lego, for instance, and refer customers looking for that product elsewhere. For me a hobby involves construction thought and skills.

There’s a problem with today’s kids they sometimes don’t know how to put a nail into the wall.

One day we had a rush of college-aged kids coming in to buy pirate ship models and I found out that a history professor at Dawson had made it a course requirement to know and build a replica pirate ship. They were to be tested on the names of all the parts of the pirate ship.

How to build gargoyle

Demographic of customers varies by product sold. For radio-controlled models, the age range is about 12--50. For model trains it is 20--90. For plastic models, it is any age. Have one customer with $250,000 worth of die-cast models of backhoes. Some people buy models of cars they used to own or dream of owning.

60% of customers male, 40% female

Women can enjoy trains, too. We have one lady who sports the nickname “Choo choo.” Husband builds train to keep he happy. 36” sailing ships.

Guy picked dup stuff and shipped it. 3 Chinese students transformers $499 of models. This is what you get

Our problem is making people aware of us

Do a lot of advertising

Radio didn’t work well; newspaper works better

Blue collar workers Also professionals who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Train model layout never finished always details to finish

Built sailing ships with sister until no longer any dexterity

Everyone has their nuances

Still has Eaton’s green closed in 1995

Own private playground

Nephews work at store

Difficult to make radar tower

Lights flash and turn static part

Servo from radio control airplane; had to isolate it. Pick up power without shorting out

Called imagination. Learn to use imagination

Learn skills how to build. One of my neighbours asked me how to change a light bulb

Website, storefront

Lot of guidance, need service what we sell

$300 radio control car

Break it

$40/hour. Free help simple problems. Encourage people to do on their own

Have to see it, give them limited advice

$6,000 r.c. helicopter

$5,000 die cast locomotive

$2,000 die cast crane

$2 simple plastic model; snap together cars, boats, planes

23 employees, no seasonal difference

Visa MC debit, interact

Parking beside store





The Times watched as an employee piloted a radio-controlled Hirobo helicopter around the store. Purchase of a radio-controlled helicopter includes a free lesson (typically 15--20 minutes) to show customers how to control their new toy. By the end of the lesson, customers should be able to make the helicopter hover; greatly reducing the risk of damaging the model. This is built into Udisco prices and in sharp contrast to similar products bought from competitors online.


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Nos coordonnées:

Tel: (514) 935-4537

Email: john@montrealwithkids.com


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