Insights on business -- and life.
Nov 4, 1927 – April 20, 2008
Staff Report (May 5, 2008)
The hobby industry has lost one of its distribution pioneers. Felix
V. Bass, 80, passed away quietly on April 20, 2008 after a battle
with the effects of diabetes and other associated complications.
Inge, his wife of 57 years, was by his side.
Felix was born in 1927 in Vienna, Austria, the only child of a
prominent newspaper editor and his wife. On a Sunday in 1938 while
Felix and his parents were in a park in Vienna, the Nazi SS swept
through the city and rounded up its Jewish citizens. The Bass family
was saved by a work colleague of Felix’s father who pulled them
out of a march and suggested they pack and leave Austria at once.
Felix was 11 years old when the Bass family packed and left in the
middle of the night. They boarded a train for various locations
across Western Europe through 1938 and into 1939, keeping one step
ahead of the Nazis.
After residing in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, and England
for various time periods, the family was finally able to obtain exit
visas for the U.S. from Lisbon Portugal, arriving in the in late
1939. Able to bring only what they could carry from their Vienna
home, they were settled on a poultry farm in Vineland , NJ. Felix,
by then 13 years of age, was enrolled in school, but knew only the
little bit of English he learned in Austria and from his
multi-lingual father while residing in England.
Felix later met the daughter of another European family which had
settled in Vineland, and eventually they married and moved to
Haddonfield, NJ, a suburb of Philadelphia. An accountant by trade,
one of Felix’s personal hobbies included stamp collecting. He was
an avid philatelist and would purchase stamp collections at shops
and auctions, keeping what he needed for his own collection and
packaging and selling the remainder to hobby shops in his spare
time. He soon realized that while he was selling his surplus stamps,
there was also an opportunity to sell other hobby products on those
Family members loaned he and Inge money to start their
distribution business, and soon the basement of their home was
filled with various hobby products which Felix sold on his hobby
shop rounds. In a short time they outgrew the limited storage space
in the basement of their Haddonfield home.
In 1956 they welcomed a daughter, Ruth, and shortly thereafter
moved to a larger home in Voorhees, NJ which included an oversized
garage, very suitable for their growing fledgling hobby distribution
business, now named Felix V. Bass & Co. Inge quit her
bookkeeping job to become the office manager of their newly expanded
business. They hired some employees and continued to expand their
inventory and customer base. In 1958, son Michael was born.
As Bass & Co continued to grow, duties grew numerous and more
time-consuming, so Felix took on a partner and subsequently moved
the business to an industrial park in Westville, NJ. In 1980 Felix
sold his share of his business to his partner in order to open a
similar business with son Michael as a partner. Around the kitchen
table one night, Mike, Felix, and Inge agreed to name the new hobby
distribution company "Stevens International," a
combination of Mike’s middle name as well as the international
element of their new business. Stevens began as an import model
railroad company in the basement of the Bass home which was then in
Cherry Hill, NJ. In short time, Stevens was expanded to include
model kits, which made a home basement unsuitable for the larger
space requirements of plastic models.
In 1982 Stevens International moved into its current location in
Magnolia, NJ, a building accidentally discovered by Inge while
driving by. Felix diligently built this business with his wife and
son beside him, including two expansions of the building to
accommodate the ever-growing variety of inventory bought both
domestically as well as internationally. Fluent in German from their
European roots, Felix and Inge attended the Nurnberg Toy Fair for
many years, using their bi-lingual abilities to negotiate
distribution rights for various hobby lines not previously sold in
Inge and Felix continued to be active in Stevens International
for years; Inge retiring in the late 1980’s, and Felix scaling
back his hours in the 1990’s. Felix continued to work a few hours
each week until late 2007, when his health became an issue. Both he
and Inge attended the 2007 iHobby Expo in October, 2007, much to the
joy of industry colleagues who were afforded the opportunity to
shake Felix’s hand one last time.
He will be fondly remembered at that show as he sat in his chair
in the aisle satisfied knowing that his fledgling business had grown
to what it has become today.
Felix leaves not only his wife, Inge, but also son Mike and his
wife Debbi, daughter Ruth and her husband John, as well as four
grandchildren: David, Julia, Pamela and Alan.
Cards can be sent to Stevens International, PO Box 126, 706 N
White Horse Pike, Magnolia, NJ 08049.