Exploring Arizona: Tombstone Antique Mall, Tombstone and Zearing’s Mercantile, Benson

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by Barb Stillman, Publisher 

Southeastern Arizona has long been on my bucket list of places I wanted to explore—particularly Historic Tombstone and Benson because two of our wonderful Antique Register advertising shops are there. So my sister Phyllis and I recently headed south for some shopping fun and relaxation as we visited Tombstone Antique Mall and Zearing’s Mercantile. During the pleasant drive, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, including picturesque river-valley views, mountains, rolling hills and peaceful stretches of natural desert.  

Tombstone Antique Mall 

Arriving at lunchtime, we stopped at Tombstone Antique Mall because our shops usually can recommend the best local places to eat. To our good fortune, we were directed to Ethan’s Coffee Corner, a delightful little coffee shop/restaurant at the back of the Mall where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Then we spent a most enjoyable afternoon exploring the large mall and visiting with owners Lynn Hu and Mike Mazzeo. Some of the dealers had holiday décor up, which is featured on our front cover. 

Located in the heart of Arizona’s “Town too tough to die,” Tombstone Antique Mall celebrated its third anniversary in October. Lynn and Mike carefully selected the store’s location and environment because they wanted to create their premiere purveyor of antiques in an antique itself—the historic city of Tombstone. They like to say their building is “6000 square feet of Man-tiques, Antiques and shabby-chic collectables.” It is home to over 100 vendors with a wide variety of items from new and collectable to vintage and antiques even dating back to the 1700s. The vendors maintain their own individual booths, keeping them clean and well stocked with new and unique ever-changing inventory. You never know when you will find an extra special something that you did not even know you had been missing.  

Since it opened in 2018, the Mall has also been offering fine art, furniture and home décor, hard-to-find items and objects, jewelry, coins, gold and silver. There is an additional outside “Man Cave” with everything from yard art to buggies, antique tools and equipment plus a stand-alone miner shack with gems, minerals and other local vintage treasures. 

Items on consignment are also accepted by Tombstone Antique Mall, assisting their customers when downsizing homes, moving or just wanting to redecorate. 

The Mall has won several awards as the best “Décor, antiques and collectables” store both in the city of Tombstone and throughout Cochise County. They have won the award from the Sierra Vista Herald “Best of the Vista” all three years they have been eligible. Ethan’s Coffee Corner with specialty coffees and teas as well as sandwiches, baked goods, ice cream, malts and smoothies has also won several Sierra Vista Herald awards from best coffee and best lunch to the best sweets and desserts, and their enthusiastic staff has also won awards for customer service, help and assistance.

Mike and Lynn invite you to “come on out and visit us, get a beverage of choice and enjoy spending some time with some friends in a clean and comfortable environment. You’ve got to check us out!”

The Tombstone Antique Mall is located at 720 E Fremont Street on the corner of Fremont and Eighth Street across from the old High School. The building is easily recognized, having been known as “the big pink building” for decades. Learn more at https://www.tombstoneantiquemall.com/ or follow them on Facebook. Email tombstoneantiquemall@outlook.com or call 520-457-8538.

Tombstone itself is a town of amazing historical yesterdays, a thriving today, and a tomorrow of great promise. It is a city of patient survivors known for the ability to exist in the Wild West. Its people have a continuous recorded history of more than 142 years in an extreme environment and have not only survived but thrived. That means the antiques are authentic and legitimately unique to the area. 

The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park has a replica gallows. On historic Allen Street, the O.K. Corral outdoor theater re-enacts an 1881 cowboy gunfight. Resident ghosts are said to haunt the bullet-riddled Bird Cage Theatre and Law-breakers and Outlaws are among the local townsfolk buried at the 1878 Boothill Cemetery.

Zearing’s Mercantile, Benson

The next day Phyllis and I headed to Zearing’s Mercantile in Historic Benson, the Gateway to Cochise County and just a short drive from Tombstone. Owners Cindy and Dan Ball welcomed us and we enjoyed exploring and visiting with them. There is much history in Benson and in the Zearing’s Mercantile building and Cindy and Dan are very knowledgeable about both.

The building was built in 1886 and is on the National History Registry. Built during Benson’s railroad era before the turn of the century, it served as a mercantile for many years. This brick building survived the 1906 fire that destroyed the other buildings on the block. The Zearing family owned the business from 1972 until the late 1990s and those who grew up in Benson still talk about its popular candy counter.

When the Balls purchased the building in September 2018, they decided to keep the name and the theme of the original setting. After much blood, sweat and tears, Zearing’s Mercantile reopened in October 2019 after being closed for 22 years. The day they opened happened to coincide with a Benson High school reunion and many of the returning students stopped by to reminisce and purchase some vintage candy like they had done in the old days.

Candy is only part of Zearing’s business. They have many antiques and collectibles that line the aisles and shelves. The Balls, who are USMC veterans, have been collecting antiques for over thirty years and keep a rotating inventory. 

They told us, “We sell the weird, the wild and the wonderful! It is our goal to have one-of-a-kind items, both in our antiques and our candy. You will always see something new. We believe we are a one-of-a-kind shop! There might be a candy store and there might be antiques’ stores but there’s nothing quite like ours.”

The variety of merchandise at the shop can range from cartoon and doll collectibles, vintage stage/prop guns, quilts, jewelry, antique stove, clocks, militaria, posters, artwork—and more. Phyllis and I even found a vintage EKG machine but neither of us wanted to be the guinea pig! It’s a wonderfully fun place to explore, especially when you want unusual hard-to-find items. The Balls will help you find any special items you have been looking for. The candy counter is hard to resist and, of course, we brought some home!

One thing that might surprise you is the Balls say there are ghosts in their store. They sometimes find items will be missing or misplaced by their “special friends.” They offer ghost-hunting classes every Tuesday at 7 p.m. If you are interested, give them a call.

The couple is very involved with the revitalization of Benson and wants to bring back the history, one building at a time. They plan to expand into another historical Benson building they own called The Historic Hotel Arnold. 

We purchased a booklet featuring the Murals of Benson published by the Benson Clean & Beautiful non-profit organization. It includes photos and information on the more than forty murals painted by local artist Doug Quarles that can be found on buildings throughout Benson. Cindy and Dan want you to know that they will be at Zearing’s Mercantile for a long time and their desire is to preserve the rich history of the area. They invite you to come in, sit and chat with them a while and you’ll be sure to learn a lot about Zearing’s Mercantile and their quirky little town.

Zearing’s Mercantile was voted Herald/Review’s #1 2020 Best of Benson Specialty Store and #2 in 2021. 

Phyllis and I did manage to find time to explore some of the unique sites in Historic Tombstone. There is so much history in this area that it will entice us to make another trip to explore more. Plan your own visit to Benson and Tombstone but allow plenty of time to shop, eat and learn about the history. When you visit the shops, please tell them you read about them in The Antique Register.

There is so much to see and explore in Arizona and we are making plans for our next trip. Because we enjoy sharing our adventures, we will continue telling you about the great destination shops we visit—so be sure to watch for our articles in future issues.

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