Lamenting the closing of Stewart's Gun Shop, Bloomington, IN


Barry in IN
August 4, 2004, 08:54 PM
I just heard last night, from a friend of mine, that one of the neatest gun shops ever, has closed.

I guess it's been a while since the closing, but I don't get there much, so I didn't know.

Stewart's was one of a kind.
You name it, and it was there. It just might be hard to find.

It was ran by an older lady, JoAnne Stewart, who knew guns. I mean really knew guns. If she liked you, she might let you know what she knew. If not, she'd just let you go on wondering.
When I first went there, she looked to be about 50-ish. Thirty years later, she looked to be about 50-ish.
Everybody was "hon" or "honey".

The last shop location was the biggest, but still not very big by today's standards. The floor was covered with wooden long gun racks. And junk. The glass counters were full of handguns. And junk.
And I mean FULL. The handguns were piled in. All with little white tags with some obscure code scrawled on them that only JoAnne knew.

"Junk" was everywhere, with little paths to stumble through. Piles of old books and magazines. Anyone who has been there will never forget the chair made from steer horns.

The walls were another thing. Among the war tropies, trench art, fishing nets, and Native American artifacts, there might be an autographed picture of Ad Topperwein. Or a really odd gun.

The long gun racks held any and everything. There were racks behind the counter, but there could be anything right out on the floor. One visit, I passed by countless Marlin Glenfield 60 .22s and H&R single-shot shotguns to see an engraved, Belgian, underlever 4-barreled Drilling.
I've lost interest in the average stuff in the racks, then found an ArmaLite AR-17 "golden gun" shotgun.
The H&R single-shots might be right alongside a gold-inlayed Superposed. I've seen things there, that I've never seen outside of a "not for sale" display at a show.

The counters were the same. High-Standard Double Nine revolvers, some Ruger single-actions, etc. Not junk, but not exciting either.
Then, there would be a High-Standard Olympic. Or a Ruger Hawkeye. Or a Seecamp. I remember a Liberator once.
All in the same pile.

Myself, and a friend of mine, are High-Standard .22 auto nuts. She would pull a treasure out when either or both of us came. She dragged out that Olympic from the pile under the counter with the other stuff. It was in a paper sack for safe keeping.

She sold guns all the time, yet others were the same guns that were there my first visit in the '70s.
Sometimes, you would try to price a gun, and she would respond "I haven't figured it up yet." Then, get the same answer, on the same gun, three years later.
You could ask if she had any XYZ guns, then she would pull something out of a cubbyhole in a roll-top desk, unroll a sock revealing a pristine example, and proceed with a 30-minute tale, knowing you were dying to get your paws on it. Then, when the hook was set, you would ask the price, and get "Oh, I'm just not ready to sell it."
Then there was the Ithaca 37 Ultra Featherlight 20 gauge that a friend of mine wanted. Twenty year-plus-old gun, which he would be plenty happy with, but "I have the box here, but don't know where, and I'd want you to have it, so I can't sell it to you." That went on for two years that I know of.

In the last shop, her husband was more active in it. He had the war trophies, Civil War relics, etc. I would guess that there were things in there that would astound collectors of such things, if they knew they were even there to be seen.

What things must have been discovered when they moved out.

If you enjoyed reading about "Lamenting the closing of Stewart's Gun Shop, Bloomington, IN" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
August 5, 2004, 09:56 AM
Oh, the memories. That was where I saw my first .45-70 revolver (one of the Century ones made in IN, forget those silly "BFR" things), and my first Dardick. I liked that she had jewelry cases for my girlfriend to look through while I drooled on the great guns. (You described JoAnne perfectly, by the way.)

Thanks for the news, even if it is sad. I'll bet El Tejon also has some fond memories of the place. I'll lift a glass tonight to the Stewarts and all of their customers. Good times.

2nd Amendment
August 5, 2004, 11:33 AM
All my life 40 miles away and never did get there. I really need to get out more. *sigh*

El Tejon
August 5, 2004, 12:53 PM
[El Tejon singing] Memories, la dee da something or other la.:D

My martial arts club was right across from this place. Used to stop in at least twice a month in undergrad.

Still have, er, um, several firearms I purchased there. Good times indeed.

I still miss Schmaltz's.:)

Parker Dean
August 5, 2004, 01:58 PM
I still miss Schmaltz's.

All I remember is the bear :(

Barry in IN
August 5, 2004, 07:20 PM
Holy cow! I forgot about them! I don't know how, but I did.
I used to love seeing the tin target "drawings" that trick shooters made which were on display there.
Ahhh, the creak of the wood as you climbed the stairs........

I wonder if The Peanut Barrel is still near there.

I thought about Stewarts' Century 45-70 revolver, and the Dardick pistol last night. She kept that one round of Dardick ammunition in the case for a long time. I'm sorry, "tround", not "round".

I don't think I'll forget her dragging a Seecamp .32 out of the pile. Absolutely impossible to get, but there it was.

Did any of you guys ever go to old shop that was above the pet store on SOUTH Walnut? Across the street, and north of Piggy's.
You entered downstairs, passed the coyote in a cage, and walked up the ramp.
Oh, the smell. My dad still complains about that.
That was before the shop in the house on South Walnut.

How many years did she drive a VW Thing?

One of a kind.

I can only imagine what wonders are in their house.

Oh well, she closed at least twice before, that I know of. Maybe she'll be back in a couple of years.

El Tejon
August 5, 2004, 10:36 PM
Barry, Schmaltz's is where my father bought his first rifle, a Stevens .22 at age 11 in 1950. He brought in a note from his father to the owner to let the owner know it was O.K. to sell it to him.

He would tie the rifle to the handlebars of his bike and ride down to the town dump and shoot rats all day with his buddies. They would wave at cops who would join them at the soda fountain at Woolworth's after a hard day's killing of rats (you left your guns along the wall of the counter where customers would hang their coats, bolts open please). Different times, huh? Can you imagine how a group of armed kids would be treated in today's Nanny State?!?!:uhoh:

My dad still has the rifle, even though MPFreeman and I shot it out long ago. Maybe some day I'll have it refurbished and ready for the grandkids.:)

August 7, 2004, 09:07 AM
Sad to say that a friend told me about this place not long before its demise. I sure would have liked to check it out. His description was also the same, and he ended up finding an old, unique, 22 rifle right before the end.

If you enjoyed reading about "Lamenting the closing of Stewart's Gun Shop, Bloomington, IN" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!