by Barney Quick
photo by Cindy Steele
Ultimately, one can’t generalize about Nashville shops. Each is really carving out its own particular niche. That niche is usually a reflection of the proprietor’s personality. Reliable Vintage certainly demonstrates this.
Eugene Spiegel, the owner of Reliable Vintage, can claim that every piece of the store’s merchandise is in top working condition. There are cameras, telephones, watches, typewriters, radios, and stereo equipment. Items range from early models to fairly recent. He also carries estate jewelry and some musical instruments.
Then there is Harriet, “the real star” of the shop. The nine-year-old cat spends most of her time relaxing in a bed on the counter top or responding to the affection of the visitors, often following them around the counters as they view the treasures.
Brown County tourists often carry cameras. Those who do should expect to have their group picture taken when visiting Spiegel’s shop. Those who appreciate fine cameras will be pleased to see a selection of Leica, Zeiss Ikon, Hasselblad, Nikon, and other collectibles.
Spiegel carries a significant inventory of 1960s, 70s, and 80s stereo equipment: Marantz, Pioneer, Sansui and other receivers, turntables, equalizers, and Advent and JBL speakers. He says the market for such gear is “anybody who’s ever heard it.” He is more than happy to demonstrate the sound quality of various configurations, clearly appreciating the sharp fidelity himself. For audiophiles who already have LP-era equipment at home, he can sell replacement styluses, cartridges, and belts. He even has an ample offering of restored reel-to-reel tape recorders.
If you are looking for an astrological reading, Reliable Vintage is your place. Eugene has been studying that field since the age of twenty. “If people know their birth time within four minutes when they were born, I can give a most accurate reading,” he says. He consults detailed tables and software to determine the positions of celestial bodies relevant to clients’ lives. “We still have free will,” he is quick to stress. “You can ignore anything you want.”
A bicycling enthusiast as well as machine collector and photographer, Spiegel began his acquaintance with Brown County over the course of four Hilly Hundred rides. What he discovered was appealing enough to move his family here after a lifetime in the Cincinnati area. The Spiegels made the move last year and opened the shop in September.
Spiegel characterizes his store as simultaneously the oldest and one of the newest in Nashville. His business traces its roots to the retail establishment his grandfather started in Cincinnati in 1908. “He’s still a part of the store,” he says, pointing to a photograph he took of the patriarch at age 85.
The family’s fourth generation is getting involved now. “My thirteen-year-old daughter makes jewelry,” he notes. “My nine-year-old son, a cartoonist, likes whatever will make him a lot of money.”
If there is a theme to the variety of goods and services offered at Reliable Vintage, it would be a fascination with the intricate. “My father was a watchmaker,” says Spiegel. “From an early age, I’ve enjoyed fine machinery.” He explains that there is even a link between timekeeping and observation of the stars, “Thousands of years ago, watches were first developed to aid astrology.”
Spiegel has a unique style of trading. A recent browser in the store told him about some high-end stereo speakers she had. He said he would like to have a look at them, adding, “I may have to give you money for them if they’re good enough.”
There’s an element of showmanship in his interaction with customers. “The key for me is giving attention to everyone who comes in,” he explains.
Another common thread running through the various aspects of Spiegel’s business is respect—for customers, family heritage, Brown County, and especially the craftsmanship involved in the items he buys and sells. As he puts it, “I bring things back to life.”
Reliable Vintage is located on Old School Way in Nashville, just off East Main Street near the Nashville House and can be contacted at (812) 988-1199 or visited on the web at <www.reliablevintage.com>.