Phil Stewart has hundreds of vintage radios and knows the history of each. Photo by LCGross.
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Ode to Radio: Stewarts’ Vintage Nook

There’s something “in the air” at Stewarts’ Vintage Nook, the newest addition to Miami’s arts and antique district. Could it be the largest collection of Golden Age radios in the state of Arizona?  

“You say these radios all work?!” asks a customer, astounded as he looks around.

“Yes sir,” says Phil Stewart. 

Phil and his wife, Kate Stewart, are proprietors of the new antique shop at 409 Sullivan Street. They have more than 80 radios on display, all built in the time when broadcast radio was born.  The technology is tube and the cabinets are works of art. The oldest in the store is a 1929 Majestic. 

Each radio has its own quirks and personalities, Phil says, and there are ways that they like to be treated.

“It’s like getting to know a good friend,” says Phil. “Turn the knobs and tune them in.”

 

Enthusiastic Antique Collectors 

 

Phil Stewart is mechanically inclined. About 10 years ago, an old jukebox caught his eye so he bought it and restored it, and got it working again. Next, he saw an old console radio, got it home, and was hooked on tube radios, the technology used from the 1920s until transistors took over in the 1960s. Kate’s enthusiasm is for antique furniture and household items. 

“We love going and looking and finding all kinds of things,” says Phil. “Miami was tops amongst the list of places we liked to shop for antiques.”

Over time the Stewarts collected a “war chest” of old radios and furniture, mostly from Arizona estate sales. Antique items overflowed their home and into Phil’s workspace. They toyed with the idea of opening a store or putting up a booth in an antique mall, and why they decided on Miami is very simple, according to Phil. 

“We’re drawn to the people,” he says. “We feel accepted. The friendships are near and dear to us.” 

 

Setting Up Shop in Miami, AZ 

 

The Stewarts inked their deal for the storefront on Sullivan Street in June 2021. Then came the fires and they were asked to stay away until the danger subsided. They had but a few shelves up and a few things in when the waters came rushing in at the end of July.

The flash floods that ravaged downtown Miami brought the Stewarts even closer to their new community. Mayor Sammy Gonzales made a big impression on Phil and he asked the mayor to cut the ribbon when they opened their new business on the 2nd Saturday in August. 

“We’re off to a very nice start,” says Phil. “It has exceeded our expectations.”  

Phil and Kate helped to launch the Towns’ Second Saturdays. Seen here with Miami Mayor Sammy Gonzales. Photo by LCGross

Phil and Kate are not ready to retire from their “real jobs” just yet. Phil’s been in the plastics business for nearly 40 years; he co-owns PCM, a small manufacturing company in Mesa. Kate has been a first-grade teacher for 20 years and works with the Mesa Unified School district. 

Kate is also a mosaic artist, a craft she restarted shortly before the onset of Covid-19. Some of her pieces are for sale near the front of the store. Some days she works on her projects there.

“It is actually pretty relaxing up here,” Kate laughs, “and there are so many people to talk to; we just chat all weekend.”

It’s getting harder for the Stewarts to head back to Mesa at the end of each weekend. 

“It’s hard for us to quantify, but for Kate and I, when we’re in our store in Miami, it feels right,” Phil says. “There is something in the air.”

Kate and Phil Stewart at their shop on Sullivan Street in Miami. Courtesy Photo

Pairing Old and New Technologies

Experimenting with his mentor, Phil learned that some of the old radios lend themselves to being blue-toothed. 

“There is a jack in the back of the set where you can connect your Bluetooth receiver and stream music and control it through your phone,” he explains, “though not all of them.”

Lee Kinnard, the owner of Dominion Firearms in Miami, has a 1946 RCA table radio that he recalls listening to as a kid. It belonged to his grandfather. It quit playing along the way, but Lee held onto it. Recently Phil cleaned it up and got it working again and was able to blue-tooth it.  Now the radio plays all day at the shop, — some radio programming, but mostly the content Lee streams. 

“It’s great,” says Lee. “The speaker on that old radio from 1946 is better than the soundbar or the TV.” 

This morning’s customer doesn’t give a “flying flip” about the blue-tooth pairing.  He is fascinated with short-wave radios though and says they’re hard to find. Until now. He peruses the wall of short-wave radios. Phil points out a Zenith 5-band short-wave which was built in 1955.

“These are phenomenal,” Phil describes, “you put these up in your backyard and you’re all over the planet.”

From their store on Sullivan Street, AM stations reach north to Sacramento and Montana and east to Texas and Missouri. The short wave radios go all over the world, Phil says, in so many languages, some unidentified.

“At night, when the ionosphere lifts, it allows a radio to reach out,” Phil says. “You never know what you’re going to get.” 

The man from Show Low got a 1946 Firestone. Another happy customer.

 

 

 

 

 

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