‘Toys in the front, drugs out the back’

Even though Pam Hays has managed Hodgins Drug and Hobby since the 1980s, her connection to the downtown Moscow storefront began more than 120 years ago.

Hays’ grandfather helped bring the store from Genesee, Idaho, to Moscow in 1890.

“Genesee was bigger than Moscow back then. But when the University of Idaho came in 1889, he saw the writing on the wall and thought Moscow would be a better place to grow his business,” Hays said.

For the first half of the store’s life, it operated mainly as a pharmacy. However, Hays’ father, a pharmacist, noticed the difficulties of running solely as a pharmacy and began to stock other items.

Not long after, toys and trinkets began appearing at the front of the store, while the pharmacy remained at the far end of the shop.

“The saying around here is, ‘Toys in the front, drugs out the back,’” Hays said.

The store’s ownership drifted between her family and another for much of its life downtown until the management of the business largely landed in Hays’ hands almost 40 years ago.

Olivia Heersink | Argonaut

Hays said she helped the toy and hobby section of the store gain traction in the ‘90s as pharmaceutical prices increased.

“We knew we needed something to keep the lights turned on,” Hays said. “With any store like ours — which is rare to find around here — you have to have a fun and vibrant front end to keep people coming back. You need more than Band-Aids and wine.”

Now, toys for excited children of all ages line the walls of the store in addition to trinkets, knickknacks, souvenirs and general drug store items.

Hays said the quirky and traditional mix of toys in the store fits with Moscow’s vibrant community.

With an array of ages and interests, she said there is bound to be something for everyone — even if it takes a minute to find what they were looking for or didn’t know they needed.

“People have been very receptive to what we stock on our shelves,” Hays said. “Celebrations like birthdays don’t just happen once a year, they happen all the time. People need a fun, happy place to shop for the people they care about.”

Aside from birthday and holiday presents for children, Hays said some of the store’s most exciting items for “big kids” are housed on the lower level of the shop.

Nicholas Branham, who runs the downstairs component of Hodgins, said most of the customer-base for the hobby section comes from university students interested in modeling and gaming.

“I help a lot of art and architecture students with modeling their projects or finding the right tools for their projects,” Branham said. “It’s been fun to be part of that with them.”

Like Hays, Branham said the best part of his job is curating the interesting and often eccentric merchandise in the store.

“I’m so fortunate to have a job that I want to do every day and interact with people that are interested in what I love to talk about,” Branham said.

The holiday season, Hays said, most often becomes the busiest time for the store, especially the toy section.

“Parents will bring their kids in here around Christmas to peek through the window or peer down the aisles to look for what they might want,” Hays said. “It’s impossible not to come to work every day and smile from hearing laughter and seeing kids smile.”

Hailey Stewart can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu or on Twitter at @HaileyAStew

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