Help us grow this list of maker resources that can be found in Philly as well as in neighboring NYC, DC and all points in between. Perhaps you know of a killer place to find electronic surplus or art supplies or maybe even an old school lumber mill…. whatever it is, share it with your fellow makers here and/or post a review.
"Only for emergencies" - Hro, Make:Philly
Best Western Inn (Bar)
501 N. 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(Dates: Sept 16, 17, 22, 23, 30; Oct 1, 7, 8, 15, 29)
Molding & Casting
Fertik's Electronics Remembered
[Not actually a picture of Fertik's but pretty darn close]
I was pressing my face as hard as I possibly could against the backseat window of my dad’s car. I knew it was only a matter of minutes now before he would call it quits. We had been driving around (without a map, as usual) looking for this “junk store”, as he called it, for easily a half hour. And now it was starting to snow. I needed a small miracle and I needed one fast.
“ELLA STREET!” – I shouted, “We found it!”. I was nine. The year was 1985 and my most favorite place on earth, the surplus store in the back of Edmund Scientific, was about to meet its match.
The windows in the back were fogging up faster than I could wipe them clear. Snowflakes be damned, I was rolling mine down to get a better view.
We pulled into a gravel parking lot that ran right up to an old dirty white shed. I immediately eyed something with circuit guts hanging out of it. I started kicking the back seat. “Come on let’s go!” I pleaded. “Don’t get your hopes up”, my dad said, “It looks like it may be closed. There’s only one other car here.”
“No way” I told him. And before the car had fully stopped I hit the gravel running. That thing I spotted turned out to be a dozen things – machines of all sorts. None of which looked like anything I had never seen before. They had the coolest dials and gauges and old levers and switches ever. “Look at all this great stuff!” I shouted. “Maybe it’s all free?” I thought, “After all, it’s been left outside – maybe they’re throwing it away!”.
I heard my dad knocking on the shed door. I skipped over to him but began to fear the worst as each knock went unanswered. At last, we heard a muffled voice on the inside. "Just a second… ”.
The door creaked open and wonderful old machine smells poured out. A scruffy old man appeared and was trying to say hello to me but all I wanted was to get a better look inside. From what I could see the place had no end. “It goes on forever I shouted!” Leon Fertik smiled proudly, “Come on in before you catch cold and take a look around.”
Battered army green colored shelves and tables of every height and size formed the aisles in this tinkerer’s wonderland. Upon them were wooden bins overflowing with treasure. Giant potentiometers, jet fighter vacuum gauges, turn of the century mercury switches... “YOU’LL WANT TO BE REAL CAREFUL WITH THOSE SON” – a voice boomed down on me out of nowhere, startling the hell out of me. It was Leon. I remember wanting so badly to tell him that I knew about mercury switches but the wind had just been knocked out of me.
“You looking for something in particular?” he asked. I was struggling for a grown up answer when my dad appeared. I was saved. “My son just wants to look around for some parts... parts for his spaceship.” "No Dad! - Don't tell him that!" I suffered in silence.
Leon took it all in stride. “Ah, well then I have the perfect part for you young man. Follow me.” We mazed through the aisles and at last I was handed an old analog current meter. “Now that ammeter doesn’t take much current,” he instructed, "just a few mirco-amps". I thanked him, pretending to understand.
That day I came home with lots of loot… vintage switches, spools of telephone wire, neon indicator lamps, stepper motors, 8PDT relays, bakelite knobs and one micro-ammeter.
I would return to Fertik’s many more times as I grew older. Sometimes with a circuit schematic I was trying to build, other times with just a paper sketch and an idea in my head. Fertik’s didn’t always have all the parts I needed but Leon could always recommend a suitable substitute along with a circuit tweak or two. Other times he would enthusiastically show me the “new” thing he just got in, sharing with me the exciting tale of where it was salvaged from.
Fertik’s Electronics was located on 5400 Ella Street in Philadelphia. Sadly, it closed several years ago. I and untold numbers of other future Makers are forever grateful to Leon Fertik for everything that he taught us and for inspiring us with his magical surplus shop. Thank you Leon, wherever you may be.
- hro, march o6