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'Kidulting:' New trend boosting Billings toy store

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 12:51:39-05

BILLINGS – On busy Central Avenue sits a place nostalgic in nature, but full of the latest and greatest in toy trends.

Al Coomber has owned Central Hobbys for 50 years and says the secret to making the business last so long is loving the chance to help people find a hobby.

But having a passion for toys also helps.

“I always loved model airplanes from when I was a kid,” said Coomber. “It just seems like it's always been part of me.”

And it has.

Coomber served in the Navy and his love of flying planes came from playing with them as a boy. Eventually, it was handed down to his grandson, who now serves as a pilot for Delta Airlines.

Coomber, of course, is beaming with pride.

“Yes, I'm proud of that,” he said.

But Coomber admits he’s never heard of the term “kidult,” which has turned into a new trendy way of describing adults who play with toys.

But kidults are giving the toy industry a major boom in business, starting a decade ago and rising through the pandemic.

Experts say adults buying up toys now make for roughly one-fourth of toy industry sales every year.

But the reason behind the boom has a pretty simple explanation, according to model airplane enthusiast Randy Broderick.

“I don’t think there’s any grown man,” he said. “We all have that knack for a toy still.”

Broderick is just one of many who fly model airplanes routinely and with a group in Billings. He’s been doing so for 15 years and says the activity is enjoyable, builds camaraderie and inexpensive.

“You know, it's an amazing hobby to have,” he said.

At Central Hobbys, Coomber sells planes, trains, and automobiles, and that’s why diecast car lover Jimmy Dervishian was there this week.

He says his love for building model cars turned into building full-scale cars, and it's become an activity he and his own son bonded over.

“I like that you can get away from it,” said Dervishian. “You can check out, you can go into another world and not worry about what's going on around.”

These men all have a theory when it comes to 'kidults:' something you once loved as a kid comes back to you as you age.

Dervishian has no doubt then his own son will go back to building model cars someday. And if we can learn anything from Coomber, chances are he will.