Downtown Gibsonville has a secret, and his name is Bobby Summers.
Summers is the owner and proprietor of Bobby’s Hobbies and Bobby’s World of Trains. Born and raised in Gibsonville, Summers has deep ties to the area. For more than 16 years, he has served the hobby enthusiasts in Gibsonville and the surrounding areas.
Bobby’s Hobbies is packed wall-to-wall with boxes of model cars, airplanes, figurines, motors and even puzzles. If patrons ask nicely, Summers will walk them across the street to Bobby’s World of Trains, which, as the name suggests, is devoted to model trains only. Both stores reflect facets of Summers’ eventful 77-year life.
“I made models when I was growing up,” Summers said. “The kids don’t do that much nowadays.”
After leaving high school, Summers joined the Air Force and served on the aircraft carrier the USS Tarawa for four years. After returning home and working for his father, Summers went to night school at Walter Williams High School in Burlington to complete his education.
Summers then joined the Norfolk Southern Railroad, where he worked for the next 34 years.
Summers rode in a caboose similar to the one next to the tracks in Gibsonville’s town square.
“I helped buy that caboose for the town,” he said.
Summers retired to his hometown and set up his hobby store.
“It keeps me busy, and it keeps me away from the wife’s ‘honey-do’ list,” he said.
Summer’s wife is the only other help he gets in running the two shops. If a customer needs a part from a different store, he will often lock up one location and open the other.
He likens running the hobby stores to a hobby in-and-of itself.
“It gives me a little extra spending money, other than my retirement,” he said.
Summers takes great pride in his stores. When customers walk in the door, he frequently greets them by name and inquires about their latest projects.
“The reason all of these mom and pop stores are still around is because we give them service, not like at those big-box places where all the employee knows how to do is run the cash register,” Summers said.
If patrons have questions, Summers will demonstrate and walk them through particular techniques. Just don’t be rude.
“I send ’em out the door,” he said with a laugh.
Visiting Bobby’s Hobbies or Bobby’s World of Trains is an experience in old-fashioned small town hospitality.