A boy points to some of the model planes in Evetts Model Shop.

Evett’s Model Shop will close by the end of the year after a recent rent increase depleted its ability to stay open.

The store has helped locals build models, RC cars, planes and an assortment of other vehicles for the past 70 years but it was founded on the skills of an actual aeronautical engineer.

Store founder Colby Evett was part of the city’s early aeronautics industry working as a plant foreman at the Donald Douglas Aircraft Company for 13 years. He eventually left the aircraft industry to work in the store full time and the work was more than a hobby for him.

Evett earned a reputation as a pioneer in the emerging field of radio control. He acquired a ham radio license and spent five years developing the technology to pair a model airplane with radio control, enabling ground based controllers to fly their planes. He continued with his passion for decades, evolving from wooden plans with paper skins to replicas of jet aircraft complete with their own small jet engines.

Colby was unable to fly in his later years as his health declined and he died in 2013 from complications from pneumonia and his wife Yvonne took over management duties. For years the store employees Luke Orrin and Gene Duarte have kept Colby’s creative legacy alive with Orrin focused on RC vehicles and Duarte managing the model business.

Both expanded the business from mere sales.

Duarte established a reputation for custom orders. He builds advanced kits for collectors, has clients who need help with detailed movie props and has worked on prototype designs for startups.

Orrin, worked his way into the business repairing RC vehicles and helped bring more youth into field. He entered the store into the annual 4th of July Parade and worked with local kids through extracurricular activities.

Duarte posed to Facebook this week announcing the closure. He said retail sales will end on Dec. 24 and the store will be empty by Jan 1 of 2019.

“We’ve had a great run for 70 years … just can’t pay these overpriced rents in Santa Monica to sustain a small biz like Evett’s,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to open a new hobby shop next year but the odds at stacked against me so as soon as I know something I will let you know about that.”

He said he’s trying to find a business partner who could provide the financial assistance needed to open a new location. He said the partner could be the new owner and the current employees would keep the operation running or if someone would provide loans, he’d take on the risk himself.

“I’m looking for funding right now,” he said. “We’re consulting clients and putting feelers out. Luke and I are confident that our expertise can bring customers back to a new shop we just have to bring the overhead down.”

Duarte said he’d likely end up in West L.A. given the local real estate prices.

The store is located at 1636 Ocean Park Blvd. Call (310) 452-2720 for more information or visit https://evettsmodelshop.com.


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1 Comment

  1. Just once it would be interesting for such Santa Monica stories to include the name of the landlord, and for the landlord to be asked some questions: do you live in SM? How do you feel about the prospect of putting a landmark store out of business? What percent will the rent go up? What type of business do you foresee as your new tenant (if you care)? Do you think it will add to the overall character of the city or are you strictly looking for a money-maker? Will it be a copycat of a dozen other such outlets — another caffeine dispenser or another eatery where you can’t hear your dining partner over the din? Etc.

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