For artist businesswoman Kerry Beary, 39, Mid-City’s Government Street has been a finishing school.
Brooklyn-born Beary, a former Long Island public school teacher; and husband Jeffrey, 45, opened the Atomic Pop Shop this spring at 2963 Government St.
The store sells vinyl records, secondhand turntables, vintage radios, 1950s pottery, vintage furniture and Beary’s 1950s art.
Jeffrey Beary works on some turntables and tube radios.
“He likes anything that glows,” said Kerry Beary.
One weekday morning, a CD of Bebel Gilberto’s “Tanto Tempo” playing softly in the store, Kerry Beary talked about her part of Government Street from the depths of a Danish Modern Drexel couch, circa 1964.
“We’ve got this great little vintage thing going on,” she said.
A couple of blocks on either side of the Bearys’ shop are The Honeymoon Bungalow and Time Warp Boutique, which sell vintage clothing and antiques, Denicola’s Upholstery, Aladdin’s Lamp and Circa 1857, two more antiques shops.
The Atomic Pop Shop will host a vintage bicycle show in October. “We want people to come out and show off their rides,” Beary said.
The Bearys refurbished their 1953 J.C. Higgins Colorflow and 1961 J.C. Higgins Flightliner bicycles.
“In the 1950s, we made things here,” she said. “Now, we’re a made-in-China society, and it’s sad.”
The 1950s gave rise to Zenith’s “lazy bones” TV tuning with a handheld channel changer, antihistamines, power steering in cars, cameras with built-in flashes, the computer language Fortran, the laser, Hula Hoop, the integrated circuit, the internal pacemaker, Velcro, the “AA” battery and, of course, Mr. Potato Head.
“I like the form-follows-function of the 1950s and ’60s,” Beary said. “We made things that were simple and clear using quality materials, useful things.”
Vinyl records had cover art that people now collect, Beary said. “There were liner notes big enough to read. I think vinyl sounds better. You hear the real highs and lows. You can hold a vinyl record. You own it.”
The store sells 45 rpm records starting at $1. Most of the long-playing records go for between $4 and $12.
The shop has a few higher priced collectible records like a Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” mono, first pressing, record in its paper sleeve and cutout Sergeant Pepper masks. The Beatles’ album is $350.
Beary rented space at Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques up the street before she and her husband opened their place in a building where artist Tony Mose had a gallery.
“He came into Aladdin’s one day and we started talking,” Beary said.
Mose told her he was moving to New Orleans’ Magazine Street.
“I said, ‘Who’s your landlord?’”
The Bearys signed a lease with Model Block, a development company owned by Dennis Hargroder, Danny McGlynn and Karen McArthur this spring. Model Block owns two other buildings in the 2900 block of Government Street.
Upholstering, vintage furniture and party planning businesses are next door to Atomic. A now empty building in the block will provide space for musicians to rehearse and a T-shirt shop, Hargroder said.
Hargroder, who’s president of Mid-City Merchants, and McGlynn own Circa 1857, corner of Government and North 19th streets. Hargroder and McGlynn own three more buildings between North 19th Street and the river.
“Circa evolved,” Hargroder said. “It started with antiques and architectural salvage. The art got added.”
For the part of Government Street where the Bearys have their shop, Hargroder would like to see a small grocery, deli and café like Maxwell’s.
Beary likes small stores within walking distance of each other. Two wooden decks flank the front door of Atomic, accommodations for pedestrians and bicycle riders.
“We’re part of Mid-City Merchants,” she said, “which is great, but we need more. People like to walk and shop. Once we get some more restaurants things will really start hopping.”
Beary wants to host a “Mad Men” party with The Time Warp, a bicycle event with Mid-City Bikes and something with Radio Bar, a neighborhood tavern, that could open in the next couple of months at 3091 Government St.
Radio Bar’s owners describe it as a bar with a radio station where patrons and guest disc jockeys stream their music over the Internet.
“If they have themed events, Christmas or a Bob Dylan or a Beatles night, we’d bring over a cart of records,” Beary said.
Atomic’s front counter, record bins and vintage Coke machine came from Brad Pope’s Compact Disk store when Pope closed shop on Jefferson Highway, a short bicycle ride from Atomic.
“I like vintage because it had a life before me and will have a life after me,” Beary said.