Main Street Mercantile Puts Emphasis On Fun

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Two things immediately stand out when you visit Main Street Mercantile, the newest addition to the growing collection of unique stores on Payson's historic main drag.

First, the store is chock full of what co-owner Mike Stuart calls "cool stuff." And second, Stuart and his fellow co-owners -- wife Debbie Stuart, Bruce Itule and Carol Carney -- are having a lot of fun stocking and manning their joint venture.

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Debbie and Mike Stuart and Bruce Itule comprise three-fourths of the ownership of Main Street Mercantile. Not pictured is co-owner Carol Carney. The new store at 216 West Main Street features old stuff the owners describe as "cool."

Main Street Mercantile is located at 216 W. Main St. in the building formerly occupied by Eagles Nest Art Gallery and Healing Center.

"We really wanted to get a historical building," Itule said. "This was Payson's first drug store. It was called Payson Drugs and it opened in 1949."

In it, they wanted to create an antique store that would stand out from the rest.

"It's antiques and collectibles," Mike Stuart said. "We call it cool stuff, but I prefer to call it ‘oddities.'

"It's a store that has something for everyone," he continued. "We have many items that would be of interest to men, which a lot of stores do not, but we have a lot of items that are of interest to women.

"It's a place where you can find everything from a very old butter churn or antique radio to Mick Jagger's autograph."

In fact, Main Street Mercantile features a large collection of framed autographed photos of "just about anyone you can imagine," including Elton John, Mick Jagger, Tom Cruise, Sting, Tina Turner, Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Heather Locklear. They come complete with certificates of authenticity and range in price from $50-$250.

If you want to get even closer to the rich and famous, Main Street Mercantile also has a pair of boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali or a hair from former President John F. Kennedy.

"It comes complete with a statement of how it was obtained -- by a barber at the Peter Lawford estate who cut his hair," Stuart said.

Another very "cool" item is a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun in the original box that could have come right out of the classic movie, "The Christmas Story."

"This kid in the Valley got it for Christmas, and on Christmas Day in 1952," Mike Stuart recounted. "He shoots a neighbor's window out, his father takes the gun away, places it back in the box, places it with the original BBs, targets and manual in his closet where it sits for 50 years."

Besides Elvis, Monkees and Beatles memorabilia, Main Street Mercantile also carries a lot of antique clocks and primitives like old grinders and cherry pitters.

Signs and other advertising items also abound.

Itule, a journalism professor at Arizona State University, has long been interested in antiques, with an emphasis on advertising.

"I like advertising, and I've been a collector for a long time," he said. "I think my house probably looks a lot like this store."

Itule met the Stuarts, former partners of Valley auto dealer Lou Grubb, when their daughter and son-in-law took one of his journalism classes at ASU. Carney is manager of educational services at The Arizona Republic.

The quartet chose Payson because the Stuarts have lived here off and on since the 1980s. They chose Main Street because they believe in it.

"Our interest was to buy a historic building on Main Street as an investment," Itule said. "Obviously having your hobby in it has worked great for us."

With expansion into other parts of the building already under consideration, its been a happy combination so far, according to Debbie Stuart.

"Bruce is into traditional antiques, while Mike and I are into the collectibles and the autographs," she said.

"We just want to have a great antique store and have a good time," Itule added.

Main Street Mercantile is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., and other times when the owners happen to be there.

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