Gary Stone, owner of Stoneage Antiques, has provided rare antiques to filmmakers and consumers for more than 50 years.
The store, at 3236 Northwest South River Drive, is a long warehouse containing different indoor and outdoor rooms filled with clusters of artifacts. It began as a landscaping project but, over time, changed into a source of historic artifacts including cannons, swords, boat parts and prehistoric items, like a 20,000-year-old wooly mammoth tusk.
Stone and his father, Milton, who died five years ago at 79, had a landscaping business in Miami Beach that tended to several hotels in the area, including Fountainbleu Miami Beach and Eden Roc Resort Miami Beach. In their landscaping, they would use old ship parts, like anchors and chains.
As time passed and their assortment of antiques grew, their business plan changed.
“We’ve been here a very long time,” said Stone, who runs the store with his son, Ryan, and one employee.
Stone and Ryan receive the items through auctions, people bringing them to their shop or finding it themselves.
“Most of the antiques were acquired throughout the years, a little bit at a time, or through different estate sales,” Ryan said. “Sometimes people call us saying their father died and they want to sell his stuff, so we bring it here.”
Each antique in the warehouse has a story behind it, and they are used to create other stories on film. Filmmakers, producers of commercials and MTV comprise 20 percent of the store’s business by renting props such props including old trunks and birdcages to use on their sets.
“Anything filmed in Miami, we’ve rented or sold props to the film managers,” Ryan said. “From what I can remember, some of the movies and television shows were ‘Ace Ventura 2,’ ‘Popeye,’ ‘Flipper’ and ‘Magic City.’”
Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dogg are filming a movie in Miami called “Beach Bum” that is currently using some of Stone’s antiques.
“We rent out whatever the filmmakers feel they need for their movies and then, when they bring back the items, sometimes they bring back new items for our store to keep,” Stone said.
The store also attracts interior designers and artists.
“A lot of artists for Art Basel came to our store to buy weird things like fishing nets to then make other stuff out of them,” he said. “Restaurants, parties or hotel interior decorators are our biggest clients.”
Stone said many people who shop in his store don’t want others to know about them.
“We’re kind of in a weird position where half the people don’t say anything about us being here,” he said. “We have a little bit of everything, so the artists who want their work private don’t say anything so others don’t copy them.”
Their diverse inventory draws a variety of clients. Interior decorators sometimes buy $5,000 in artifacts and then tell their employers they went to 20 different stores, according to Ryan. The Museum of Contemporary Arts has purchased cannons from the Revolutionary War.
One of the cannons, found in the Bahamas, remains in the shop and is stationed next to Spanish cannons. The Revolutionary War cannons are worth $10,000, Ryan said, while the Spanish ones are worth $4,000.
“A lot of the cannons were pulled out of the water years ago,” he said. “People who know us get the cannons from other dealers and buyers and sometimes somebody will die who owned one and then the cannons are sold to us.”
Ryan said the store used to be open all week, but is now closed on weekends, which were less profitable than weekdays, to give employees a break.
“People that would come here on the weekends would just walk around and look at stuff,” he said.
Year-round, it’s the mostly the same customers, Ryan said. They come to rent or buy antique diving helmets, Civil War swords, buoy lights, old gas station signs.
“Ultimately, anything that presents a piece of history is neat to have,” he said.