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Old 20th November 2011, 08:48 PM   #1
jackinnj is online now jackinnj  United States
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From the Sunday NY Times:

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WHEN an insurance company declared the merchandise at Leeds Radio “not pilferable” last year, it meant that the store’s hundreds of thousands of analog electronic parts — all manufactured before 1968 — were unlikely to be stolen anytime soon.

Leeds’s wild-haired owner and sole employee, agreed with the assessment. “Around here, the only people you could sell this stuff back to would be me and my friends,” he said, laughing.

And yet Leeds, one of the oldest electronics stores in the country, has plenty of paying customers. Located at 68 North Seventh Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two blocks from the Bedford Avenue stop of the L train, it attracts a steady stream of musicians, hi-fi aficionados, ham radio buffs and the kind of people who build Tesla coils in their basements.

The 2,500-square-foot space smells like a vintage record shop (an odor Mr. Matthews describes as equal parts phenolic resin, adhesive, old cardboard and wire insulation) and appears shockingly disorganized. Cubist piles of boxes overflow with switches, capacitors, Bakelite knobs and watt meters. The floor glitters with the glass of shattered vacuum tubes.

“The thing is, I know where 99 percent of the parts are,” Mr. Matthews said, digging through a box of GR connectors. “To clean this place up would be an inefficient use of my time.”

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Drew Robinson, 23, a musician from Greenpoint, stopped in to pick up an old General Electric preamplifier tube for a guitar he was repairing. “The sound of modern Chinese tubes and those made in the U.S. 50 years ago is completely different,” he said.

Mr. Matthews, 52, an electrical engineer who once worked at Boeing, takes pleasure in enlightening his younger customers. That afternoon, Eli Lief, a 16-year-old from the East Village, dropped by for help with an oscillator, which he was using to align a tape machine.

“I heard the SR-71 Blackbird uses vacuum tubes,” Eli said, referring to a strategic reconnaissance plane.

“Not true,” Mr. Matthews said. “The SR-71 was decommissioned in 1998, and regardless, we could never know if they used tubes because that information was classified by the C.I.A.”

A self-described “idiot savant” from the Upper West Side, Mr. Matthews patronized Leeds as a boy when it was still in Manhattan — the store opened in 1923 on Vesey Street, known as Radio Row — and took over the Brooklyn store from its previous owner, Bernie Goldstein, in 1994.

“It was around 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon,” Mr. Matthews recalled, “and Bernie, who was 72 at the time, said to me — ” here Mr. Matthews, mimicking Mr. Goldstein’s nasal howl, quoted an expletive — “ ‘If I could get rid of this place, I would!’

“Without thinking,” Mr. Matthews continied, “I said, ‘I’ll buy the place!’ And a year later I owned it.”

On Saturdays, Mr. Matthews opens the garage door to the street, attracting browsers from Artists and Fleas, a popular thrift store next door. The antique merchandise he displays (a 1950s Weston AC Voltmeter, for example, runs $19) can draw puzzled looks. But now and then an expert shuffles by.

“Got any Amperex Bugle Boy 12AX7’s?” asked Francesco Lapenta, 42, a sociology professor who builds speakers. Mr. Matthews beckoned him inside.

Saturday regulars include Maurice Schechter, 51, an engineer at a film and recording studio in Manhattan. “This is the last of the Radio Row era,” Mr. Schechter said, as a banner for the new condominiums down the street snapped in the wind. “Any sane person would not be doing this.”

Does Mr. Matthews agree?

“Well,” he said, gazing into his chaotic warehouse, “when I first saw this place, it seemed insane. But now I feel like there’s not that much stuff in here. And that seems slightly insane.”

SLIDESHOW: Neighborhood Joint | Leeds Radio - Slide Show - NYTimes.com

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Old 20th November 2011, 09:35 PM   #2
Apex Jr is offline Apex Jr  United States
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Thanks for this Thread.....

I've always wondered about Leeds, Never been there
but have spoken to Richard and have suggested his
company to customers. Nice to see the inside of his store.
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Old 20th November 2011, 09:49 PM   #3
bear is offline bear
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I used to frequent the original store in Manhattan when I was in HS... that was the late 60s... it was packed to the gills with stuff... the owner was a tight... and wasn't interested much in a nearly broke crazed HS age ham radio kid...

http://www.bearlabs.com -- Btw, I don't actually know anything, FYI -- every once in a while I say something that makes sense... ]
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