Thursday, September 3, 2015

Local Love: The Vintage Hi-Fi Museum

The recently opened Vintage Hi-Fi Museum is the work of Nutmeg Collective member Suzanne Urban of Smirking Goddess and her husband Mike:

"We were approved by the federal government in 2014 to run a non-profit, found a location for our vintage hi-fi museum in West Hartford, CT in November of 2014, and moved into the space in the new year.  The museum founder, Mike Urban, applied for the non-profit status in 2013; he literally had to fill out a 28-page application!  He and his friend/partner Bob Pienkowski and third partner Lewis Frisch share a passion and enthusiasm for early stereo sound equipment and MUSIC! Since the museum's been open they've been pleasantly surprised to see how many of the younger generation are just as enthused about early stereos, vintage record players, and vinyl records as they are.

The idea of opening a vintage hi-fi museum stemmed from the fact that Mike's for-profit business as an antique radio, vintage hi-fi, and car radio restoration expert for the past 14 years inspired him to share his knowledge and interest with others.  Bob is an avid collector and also repairs vintage hi-fi's. The mission of their Vintage Hi-Fi museum is to educate audio enthusiasts and future generations about high fidelity music, vinyl records, and analog audio systems with components made in the USA from the very beginning, to the Golden Age of vacuum tube audio (1950’s to 1960’s), and finally solid state transistor designs (1970’s), thereby promoting its preservation, operation, restoration, and history.

This non-profit will be acquiring a large vinyl record collection soon and thus the gift shop will also house a record store in the near future, with proceeds of sales benefiting the museum.  At the museum's grand opening we had a vinyl dealer from New Hampshire set up and again, the younger generation were buying up records as well as the older generation!  We'd also like to offer a record cleaning service to the public where for a fee they can bring in their records and we will clean the vinyls to improve the sound.  Such a service was offered before CD's took over.  Currently we're researching record cleaning devices to purchase for the museum.

Mike's wife Suzanne is the buyer for non-vintage electronic items in the museum gift shop.  A graphic designer and illustrator/writer in her own right, she's created a line of magnets and pinbacks for vintage hi-fi fans that are for sale in the shop.  She also sells guitar picks from recycled credit cards and gift cards that she makes from a small die punch.  Plus she purchased on Etsy some upcycled vinyl records that were melted into snack/serving dishes, many of which sold on grand opening day.  She's interested in expanding what the gift shop offers for sale to the public and hopes to hire some Nutmeg Collective members to add to the inventory in the future!

The biggest challenge right now is space for donations and making time to arrange a pick up for donations; most are dropped off at the museum.  We're receiving a lot of donations to our museum, some, if rare or unique, will go into the permanent collection.  The other donations are for sale to the public in our museum gift shop.  There seems to be a story behind every donation, and every visitor who's come by. So far we've had quite a few out-of-state visitors and recently a former roadie for the Rolling Stones paid a visit.  Also: seeking volunteers!  When the colleges are back in session we'd like to connect with their offices to see if any audio engineering and music students would be interested in an internship as our museum grows - we could sure use the help!

We've been pleasantly surprised how the other vintage and eclectic shops at our West Hartford location have integrated well with our museum. Before opening, we purchased a beautiful, mid-century vintage stereo from the wonderfully talented owners of Blaze and Bloom, a retail shop featuring mid-century and inspired up-cycled industrial designed house furnishing and home accents. Down the hall from us we purchased a beautiful Elvis pillow made by the owner of Hello Dahle!, another retail showroom with vintage home accents and beautiful designer pillows made by the owner Patti Dahle.  For our opening we commissioned our resident bakery owner, Beth, of A Little Something Bakery, who baked a huge batch of delicious cookies for our visitors and staff.  Suzanne and Mike would like to use Custom Framing Depot in the future for some of our vintage ephemera and memorabilia for their own collection. So the "Shop Local" theme really applies in this building!

We will be sponsoring workshops in the near future and they will be posted on our website. Our first workshop will probably be on building your own speakers! We will post all workshop information on our museum website and on our Facebook page."

The Vintage Hi-Fi Museum is located at: 
485 New Park Avenue 
West Hartford, CT

Museum Hours: Wednesday 10-2 and Saturday 10-4pm or by appt. 
Or email at: 
Visit them on Etsy!


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