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Retired 'Carnie' Breathes Life Into Broken Radios

John Vick fixes and sells antique radios from his Lutz home. His place is just a short drive from New Tampa, so if you have a penchant for antiques you might want to check it out.

John Vick opens the lock to one of the trailers in his yard to reveal hundreds of antique radios.

To borrow an overused — but entirely accurate — phrase, it’s like stepping back in time. Very few of the devices have an FM dial.

“It’s mostly AM and shortwave,” says Vick. “Back then they didn’t have FM.”

Vick fixes up and sells the radios, advertising with a simple sign in the front yard of his home at 16370 N. Nebraska Ave. The 64-year-old Lutz man said his father, Ance Vick, nurtured his interest in electronics, including buying him little radio kits at Christmas.

The younger Vick grew up on the carnival circuit. He said he and his family were on the road 6 months a year. Ance Vick, he said, in 1963 invented a game where participants shot water into a fake monkey's mouth. The monkey rose up a tree as more water was shot into its mouth, and the first monkey to reach a coconut at the top won the game.

“For 17 years we held the patent,” he said.

Vick became a carnival electrician, eventually retiring in 1997. For years, he would pick up broken radios and bring them back to life.

“It’s about the challenge of it, to get in there and find out what’s wrong,” he said, adding the hobby became a small business after retirement.

Vick has three trailers full of radios. He sells them mostly for $25-$50 each. His workshop is a former carnival trailer.

“It’s kind of slow,” he said of business. “They come and go.”

Antique radios are a labor of love, anyhow. For Vick, fixing the devices is like solving a puzzle.

“I like the ones that give me a problem,” he said. 

Interested in purchasing an antique radio? Vick said customers can simply swing by the home. There are no set business hours.

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