BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
Walking into Eugene Spiegel’s Nashville, Indiana shop, Reliable Vintage, is like traveling back in time to the 1970s. Besides the vinyl records and the R.Crumb poster on the wall, one notices that there’s almost nothing digital in the store. At Reliable Vintage, it’s analog all the way.
Whether it’s classic metal-bodied film cameras, heavy-duty stereo receivers and turntables in wooden cabinets, high-end speakers, clocks, or watches, the overall theme here is solid mechanical devices built to last—all in working order and ready for use.
“That’s what separates a vintage shop from an antique shop,” says Spiegel, 62. “Everything in here works.”
Repair and restoration of precision instruments is the Spiegel family trade—his grandfather, Harry, a watchmaker, first set up shop in Cincinnati in 1908, and his father, Milton, continued what had become a successful timepiece and jewelry business after World War II. “I started apprenticing when I was fourteen,” says Spiegel, “learning by experience—or, as I say, learning by breaking.”
By the time Spiegel took over in the ’70s, he was more interested in cycling and photography than in jewelry, and he shifted the store’s focus to reflect those interests. Then he shifted the actual store, from Cincinnati to Nashville in 2008, bringing his wife, Mary Jo, and their two children, Zofia and Gus (and Harriet, his large black cat).
“I’d been to Nashville before, on a Hilly Hundred ride,” says Spiegel, “and fell in love with the air and the quiet life.” Though he no longer deals in bikes (too space-consuming), he’s found a steady stream of customers who love to take pictures of the beautiful Brown County landscapes.
“We carry the world’s best cameras,” he says. “Hasselblad, Leica, Zeiss Ikon—these cameras give results superior to digital, at a fraction of the cost. All you lose is the ability to see the image right away.” Spiegel himself is a keen nature photographer, having studied fine arts at Ohio University, and his work, shot mostly with Leicas and Hasselblads, is displayed in the shop.
“If you want to be happy in life,” he says, “have a job that you enjoy. I enjoy mechanical things that work well—and I get to be around them all day long!”
Reliable Vintage is at 49 E. Main St. in Nashville.