Vic Linoff thinks of himself as a historian who sells old things. His eclectic Mill Avenue bookstore, Those Were the Days!, is a museum of sorts with thousands of out-of-print antiquing books shelved among miscellaneous antique signs and items with descriptive tags.
The Mesa 63-year-old likes to tell people “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”
The quirky, cluttered store exemplifies Linoff’s love of antiques, his passion for restoration and keeping history alive, and his sarcastic sense of humor.
“I once thought of myself as an antiques collector, but I think I’m more of an accumulator,” said Linoff, who owns the store with his wife, Vicki.
The building, which he bought in 1981, was built in 1907 and is a registered historic place. It’s one of the oldest retail stores in downtown Tempe.
Hanging by the cash register are dozens of tacky ties for sale. Linoff collects them and has about a couple hundred.
Despite the thousands of new and out-of-print books on all things antiques and collecting, Linoff points to a recent top seller, “Nose Picking for Pleasure.”
His first foray into antiques was buying an Edison blue phonograph in Tucson.
He started buying, experimenting and refinishing furniture, and his original business plan was offering refinished furniture in display settings.
His first store was at 46th and Van Buren streets in Phoenix. The store has been torn down and a drainage ditch is now on the property.
When the Tempe space became available, he moved his refinishing business, and the store that started selling antiques eventually turned into more of a bookstore.
He started selling books after finding a good deal in a catalog. “We started with three books on antiques, and it just grew,” Linoff said.
Linoff’s passion for preserving history has led him to sit on several museum and preservation boards and get involved in the community.
He also is the executive director of the Valley Independent Booksellers Association, and for good reason wants to keep independent bookstores alive.
“Almost every day people come in here and point their fingers and tell me I better not sell this place,” he said.
When Linoff’s not working in the store, he’s writing antique columns and op-ed pieces for local newspapers and antique magazines.
He’s also working on two books — one about the furniture of the industrial period, and the other on the history of the coat hanger.
Many people may know Linoff as his alter ego, Jay Mark. It’s the name he went by when he worked as a radio disc jockey and program director in Phoenix, Tucson and Minnesota.
He also teaches under the Jay Mark name, and is currently teaching an antiques class at Mesa Community College.
He also lectures around town under the Jay Mark name.