Antique Shop Owner's Roots Reach To Days Before Statehood



Payson antique store owner Bruce Itule's family came to Arizona before it was even a state.

"The family, as far as being here in Arizona, dates back to pre-statehood days, we have been here since about 1900."


Bruce Itule said his family's Arizona heritage dates back to pre-statehood days.

"After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe around the turn of the century, they came through Ellis Island as Lebanese merchants and the two families headed out west and ended up here in Arizona." Itule said.

Itule owns and operates the Main Street Mercantile at 216 W. Main St. His store is open from 9 a.m. to around 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

His liking for antiques comes from outings and adventures in Arizona he had with his father as a youngster.

"My Dad was an avid outdoor enthusiast, when I was a kid he would take me hunting and fishing to historical spots all over the state.

"In the course of our travels and explorations, we would often go visit ghost towns and he would talk to me about Arizona history and it took off from there, that is really where I got my desire to open an antique store." Itule said.

His father, Joe Itule, is also an Arizona native, hailing from Bisbee, as well as his mother, Ray, who comes from the now nonexistent town of Ray, Ariz.

His father's side of the family tree has ties to the Saba family, of western wear fame. Saba's Western Wear stores have been in Arizona for generations and are well-known in Phoenix and Tucson.

Itule's uncle, Mitchell Saba, had a store in Tucson and he worked there as a teenager in the 1960's.

"I worked for my uncle at his store when I wasn't working for my dad in his, or attending classes at the high school or university," he said.

Itule's father Joe was in the produce business in Arizona, with stores in Bisbee and Tucson.

Itule has owned the antique store on Main Street since April 2004, when he decided he could no longer stand the heat in the Valley of the Sun.

Itule was a professor of journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in Phoenix.

"I have hated the summer heat in Arizona since I was a boy. I spent 20 years living in Prescott, but I didn't like the traffic in that town, or the way it grew so much and lost most of its small town atmosphere."

"I also decided that I didn't want to stay in the desert, if I could leave, so I moved to Payson in 2004 with my wife Carol and opened the store," he said.

"I never saw myself as a storekeeper when I was a kid, but now, with my own store here in Payson, it's not so bad,

"I have good friends here, I really like the historical quality which is a part of Payson, and to tell the truth, my heart is here in Arizona." He said.

Itule's wife still works in Phoenix for The Arizona Republic newspaper as manager of educational services.

Itule is an Arizona native, born and raised in Tucson and has lived in the state most of his life.

He worked in various positions with different newspapers in the U.S. over the years, but he was always drawn back to Arizona, somehow.

"I think I am most proud of being an Arizonan, as a matter of fact, I think the thing I would like to be on my tombstone when I die is to say, ‘He was a hell of an Arizonan'."

Itule is now a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona in Tucson, along with running his antique shop in Payson and is a freelance editor in his spare time.

He said he began his journalism career with the intention of being a photographer.

"I had the idea that I could get into the journalism program at the U of A and use that as a way to get into photojournalism.

"U of A had the only journalism program offered at any university in the state, so I applied and was admitted as an undergraduate." Itule said.

He got his start as a journalist when he was a sophomore in high school and working at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.

Itule has worked at various newspapers all over the U.S. over the course of his 59 years on this earth, including the Chicago Tribune and Boulder Daily News.

Something always calls him back though. Itule said, "I think part of it is that I want to hold on to as much of my Arizona boyhood as I can, maybe that is what keeps bringing me back."

Itule said all but one of he and his wife's 11 children and grandchildren (with one grandchild on the way) live in Arizona, too, and he said as far as he knows, none of them plan to leave Arizona any time soon, either.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.