Antique hunting heaven is Miami, Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Antique hunting heaven is Miami, Arizona

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Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 2:15 pm | Updated: 6:35 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Relationships make a man do funny things. Like find himself wandering the streets of downtown Miami, Ariz., on an idle Saturday, junk-hunting with his sweetie in the state’s sleepy mecca of used stuff.

This Gila County town about 90 minutes east on U.S. 60 at the southern edges of the Tonto National Forest, nestled in a canyon after a beautiful drive through the Pinal Mountains, has roots as a copper mining camp. Its name comes from the copper mining company that founded it.

But these days it’s where “Antiques Roadshow” nuts go to die, or at least their things do on the way to repurchased reincarnation. It’s where bedraggled beaus and their loved ones can antique (that’s a verb) through a dozen shops in a loose network of old, rehabbed two-story buildings. Where one man’s trash and another man’s treasure beckon like spirits from storefront windows.

Ghost town

On the day we visit, the Saturday before New Year’s Eve, Miami is a ghost town: With a population of 1,800 at last count, the only people we see outside on Sullivan Street, Miami’s antique row, are a couple of kids playing basketball. Still, most of the stores are open, boasting hefty year-end sales.

Our first stop is The Book Bank (420 Live Oak St., [928] 473-2949), so named because the used book shop and antique store is housed in what used to be the old Valley National Bank, says Bernie Rosen, who bought the space in 2001 with his wife, Marlene Tiede.

Their adorable old dog, Copper, greets visitors at the door with a wary, bowed head and an up-close inspection.

“He’s got cataracts,” says Marlene.

The Book Bank’s cashier counter is a couple of bank teller windows, and the vault has been converted to house the horror and true crime collections — “Tales in the Crypt,” it’s titled, and sharing showcase space with Stephen King and Dean Koontz is, oddly, “The Death of Innocence” by John and Patsy Ramsey.

If business is slow, Bernie will show the workshop and storage space in the back of the building, concealed behind a hinged bookcase on the wall. (“I call it my 'third world,’ ” he says with a chuckle.) Ask nicely, and he might even give a tour of the basement, with its creepy coal furnace.

Pop Shop

On the lighter side, there’s Soda Pop’s (505 Sullivan St., [928] 473-4344), a retro fantasia of Charlie McCarthy dummies, tube radios, Coca-Cola memorabilia and old pedal toys from a long-ago era, pre-Big Wheels.

Like The Book Bank, there’s a pooch greeting at the door. That’s Klancy, Marcia Hughes says; he and Copper are chummy. And there’s a vibe that harks back to when antiques weren’t the stuff of eBay auctions. Hughes’ husband, Ron, does a brisk, non-eBay business in restored gas pumps and Coke refrigerators, she says.

In about six months they’ll be opening an old-school soda fountain next door.

Good eats

Downtown may be dead during our stay, but there’s one place on Sullivan that stays busy: Guayo’s El Rey (716 Sullivan St., [928] 473-9960), an unassuming Mexican diner that boasts what locals consider some of the best eats around.

The tortilla chips are homemade, the entrees are affordable, and the margaritas are liquid gusto for another round of antiquing.

But the funkiest eatery has to be Miami Coin Laundry (520 Live Oak St., [928] 473-3180), a laundry facility with its own lunch counter. But curiosity doesn’t get the best of us today, and we skip the opportunity to nosh-’n’-wash in favor of hitting the road.

We’re too jazzed to catch sunset through the mountains on the way back home.

See, there’s another thing a single man wouldn’t dare say.

>> Information on Miami, Ariz., is available at miamiaz.org or globemiamichamber.com. Downtown merchants offer free brochures with maps and shopping directories.

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