Business & economy

New owner adding to eclectic mix at Ontario hobby store

Christine Hood is making plans to add to the stock at Oregon Trail Hobbies and Gifts in Ontario. (The Enterprise/LES ZAITZ)

ONTARIO – The store is packed front to back with such a mix of items that no one would seem likely to leave empty-handed.

From dollhouses to birdhouses, from artists’ paint brushes to home decorator flourishes, Oregon Trail Hobbies and Gifts has been a shopper’s adventure.

Now, the Ontario business is under new ownership and the mix is going to get even more interesting.

Christine Hood, who worked on occasion in the store to help out in recent months, took over as owner on Nov. 1.

The business, founded in 1984 as Hobbie Horizons, was started by Dale and Cheryl Cruson to supply local fans of radio-controlled cars, planes and more. They operated from two other locations before moving in 2008 to the downtown site at 272 Oregon St. They had renamed the business six years earlier.

Hood and the Crusons have long been acquainted.

Hood moved to Ontario when she was 10, living in a house across the street from the Crusons.

She graduated from Ontario High School and in 1999 married Billy Hood, following him in his Army career that took the couple all over the world.

At the military postings, Hood worked at “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” for the military and the American Red Cross.

The couple always planned to return to Ontario when the military career ended, and Hood returned with the couple’s two children in 2012.

Billy Hood would follow two years later after service in Afghanistan and Korea.

When Christine’s parents died, the couple moved back into her old family home – once again living across the street from the Crusons.

“They needed some help in the shop and I pitched in here and there,” Hood said.

Hood decided to buy the shop when the Crusons headed for retirement.

“It really was a natural progression,” Hood said. “I love this store so much.”

She’s already at working adding to the already eclectic line of products. She wants to expand the stock of religious supplies – “and not just Christian supplies. We’re expanding so we are able to touch all members of this community.”

She plans to expand fun and gag gifts – but with taste.

“Things are so serious lately and so intense,” she said. “We have to laugh. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this – laugh at ourselves.”

The lineup of radio-controlled equipment will grow, including more drones, and there will be more unique Oregon gifts, Hood said.

Hood intends to also provide what is surely a one-of-a-kind supply in Malheur County – equipment for paranormal investigators. They’re more commonly referred to as ghost hunters and Hood counts herself as one.

“It’s become a real big hobby,” she said.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email: [email protected].

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