THE MIAMI HERALD

WAR CANNONS AND WAGON WHEELS WAIT
TO BE DISCOVERED AT THIS DUSTY PLACE

By JO WERNE Herald Home Furnishings Writer


You may never need an iron cannon from a 1720 Spanish war ship, but don't you
sleep better knowing such a thing can be found in South Florida?

Around 15 cannons are scattered about Stone Age Antiques, an out-of-the way
place on the Miami River that stocks hard-to-find items, from military memorabilia
to farm implements. A cannon can be yours for $1,500 to $2,500.

Cannons comprise just some of the nautical memorabilia owner Gary Stone has
bought and sold over the last 30 years. Stacks of railroad, military, African, Latin
American and antique ``stuff'' are piled to the ceiling in this sprawling emporium.

* * *

Ship's wheels. Boat parts. Rope. Model ships. Dugout canoes. Lobster boats. Port
holes. Cargo nets. Lobster traps.

Stone Age Antiques evolved from a landscaping project. Gary Stone's father,
Milton, who died five years ago at age 79, moved to Miami from New York
before World War II. He served in the Navy eight years.

``After the war he had three kids and no money, so he said to my mom, `What I'd
like to do is landscape.' He bought three mango trees from a farm, $4, $6 and $8.
He ran an ad in The Herald: `Mango trees for sale, guaranteed and planted.' He
charged $10, $12 and $14. That's the way he started,'' recalls son Gary.

During the '50s and '60s, Milton Stone landscaped many Miami Beach hotels,
including the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc. He collected ships' anchors and chains
from old boats to use as ornaments in his landscaping.

``The Castaways asked him to do the Wreck Bar,'' recalled Stone, 53. ``Word got
around that we had nautical stuff and people started asking for things such as
cannons. We started collecting and soon had a little warehouse full.

``D.S. Clarke [the late Dania antiques dealer] heard about Milton and asked,
`What do you want for all your stuff?' We sold everything to him. I said to my Dad,
`Why don't we get into the antique business? It's easier than landscaping.' He said,
`Hell, yes! What a great idea.' So we borrowed some money from a friend and got
started.''

Father and son opened their first shop 30 years ago at 733 NW 27th Ave. Milton
Stone was a bit of a curmudgeon, once chasing a Herald reporter out of the shop
because he didn't want a story.

``My father was very colorful; he looked like Humpty Dumpty,'' his son
remembers. ``He used to throw people out of the shop every day. He took more
enjoyment throwing people out than selling something. He never wanted to be
questioned. If someone asked what something cost and he said $50 and the
customer suggested $40, they would be gone.''

Naples marina owner Phil Morse, 77, who has bought 10 cannons from Stone Age
over 20-odd years, had a secret to dealing with Milton: ``I thought Milton was very
fair, but if you tried to beat him down on a price he would get mad. I found the way
to deal with him was to say, `Mr. Stone, what's the best you can do for me?' ''

Son Gary keeps the memory of his dad alive with his welcome mat message: ``Go
Away.''

The Stones outgrew the first shop in five years and moved to 3236 NW South
River Dr., their current location. A fake mastodon head hangs on the front of the
building.

``A guy brought it in and hung it up. I paid $100 for it,'' Stone said.

Stone Age Antiques is so stuffed with stuff that visitors must walk single file through
meandering paths. Out back in a weed-choked yard, boats, barrels and old
bathtubs wait for buyers.

Stone surveys the yard. ``This is our mess. I like anything weird and real. Anything
bizarre or strange, anything you don't see anywhere else, I like.''

* * *

African masks. Bongo drums. Wagon wheels. Primitive wood bowls from Panama.
Wood pitch forks. Walking sticks. Canes. Old luggage. An 1815 German trunk,
$2,500.

Where does he find these things?

``Every possible conceivable way,'' Stone said. ``From doing business 30 years, I
know a lot of people who have brought stuff to me. I don't advertise; it's all word
of mouth. I get stuff from all over the world.''

Stone runs the business with the help of two employees and his son Ryan, 25, who
learned the business by playing with the weird and wonderful things as a kid.

``I used to thread the sponges to hang on the wall,'' he said. ``Most of the time I
just played around with the stuff. A lot of my friends say they would like to work
here.''

Twenty percent of their business is renting props to film companies, producers of
commercials and MTV. They have a ``rent room'' filled with things frequently
wanted as props: old trunks, watering cans, baskets, bird cages.

``We've done a ton of movies,'' said Ryan, `` Flipper, True Lies, Strip Tease. We
provided gas station memorabilia for a Wendy's commercial,'' he added. ``Dave
Thomas drove by the station.''

Sharon Wills of Miami Springs is a self-employed ``prop master'' who locates
items for TV commercials, ``everything from diapers to dog food.'' She has been
renting things from Stone Age since 1983.

``A commercial calls and says we need an antique front desk bell. I call Stone Age,
and they say, `Yep, we have four kinds. Which do you want?' '' Wills said.
``Where am I going to find a stuffed polar bear or 70 hatch covers? Stone Age, of
course.''

``Once she [Wills] came in for a dog sled. I had one,'' Stone said. ``If I hadn't, she
would have had to go to Alaska for one.''

* * *

A Texaco Fire Chief gas pump. A 1921 Bennet 150 clock-face gas pump,
$1,800. A large red and white Coca-Cola sign. A Pepsi machine. Lights. Cameras.
Movie posters. Posters of famous folk.

A customer comes in looking for rigging blocks, used in construction. Stone has
some for $35 apiece. The customer hesitates. ``New would cost you $150 a
block,'' Stone says. The man buys the blocks.

``We don't give discounts to anyone,'' Stone said. ``Everything is fairly priced. The
customers pay the price or they walk. You don't want it to be too high and you
don't want to give it away, either.''

Stone has some items that cost pennies, such as 25-cent red glass marbles. ``I
bought a box of 1,000 big red marbles,'' he said.

The most expensive item in the shop? A $30,000 bell.

Two years ago a man Stone had bought bells from over the years told him about a
church bell that was for sale in Troy, N.Y. The solid bronze bell was made in 1899
by Meneely, a famous bell maker of the 19th Century. The bell weighs three tons
and is 56 inches across at the edge.

``We had to tear the whole steeple apart to get it out,'' Stone said. ``Used a crane
to get it out. We hauled it to Miami on a flat-bed truck. We had a base made with
wheels so we could push it into the shop.''

What did he pay for the bell? ``Nobody's business,'' he replies, just about nailing
the curmudgeon-y manner of Milton Stone.

Stone Age Antiques is managed without the help of a computer. Inventory? ``We
have lots of thousands of items,'' said Gary Stone, who joined the electronic age
two years ago by buying a fax machine.

* * *

Ceremonial masks, $550 each. 100 old African spears, $125 each. Musical
instruments. Old typewriters. Bikes. A black and white photograph of the pool at
the Biltmore Hotel dated Feb. 20, 1938.

``We have people coming from all over the country,'' Gary Stone said. ``And
we've had a couple of famous visitors over the years. Walter Cronkite and [the late
CBS commentator] Eric Sevareid came by. And Richard Nixon almost got here
when he was living out on Key Biscayne. The Secret Service came to check us
out, but Nixon never got here. Watergate broke about that time.''

Another customer wanders in. ``Do you have a barn drill?'' (It's an old-fashioned
tool used to drill holes in a barn beam.)

``Yes, we do,'' Gary Stone said.

Of course he has a barn drill, and cigar store Indians, and a large carved shark and.
. .

Stone Age Antiques is at 3236 NW South River Dr. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday through Saturday. For information, call (305) 633-5114.

IF YOU GO

Going antiquing can give you an appetite. If you are going to Stone Age Antiques,
3236 NW South River Dr., you might stop for lunch at one of these area
restaurants:


PETER ANDREW BOSCH / Herald Staff THIRD GENERATION: Ryan Stone,
25, helps his father run the business he grow up in. He notes that 20 percent of the
store's business is renting props for movies and TV commercials. `We've done a
ton of movies,' he said, ` Flipper, True Lies, Strip Tease. '

THRILL OF THE HUNT: Gary Stone, owner of Stone Age Antiques, watches as
his son, Ryan, goes through some of the store's ``stuff.'' Left, presidential busts are
for rent.



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