130 South Allegheny Street Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
By Serge Bielanko
Mike McCoy has lived a pretty adventurous life so far for a guy from little old Bellefonte.
Born in the Willowbank Building back when it was a hospital, McCoy hasn't been one to hang his hat in one place. Speaking with him on a recent sunny Saturday morning in his Allegheny Street emporium, it didn't take long to understand that even though this native of Bellefonte is quite proud of his local roots, his real passion in life has been traveling and residing in some of the most far-flung lands on Earth. From the time he was a boy his parents traveled the world for work and he tagged along with them. Later, he followed in their footsteps, taking long-term positions within the State Department programs in various countries. Ultimately his work landed him in Indonesia, an extremely vast archipelago of islands few Americans know much about, including McCoy.
"I knew nothing when I first set foot there," he confides.
Yet that didn't matter to him. Thats how he wanted it, actually. Hungry for new experience, Mike quickly developed a deep passion for the Indonesian people and their culture.
Now, years later, he's back home again in Centre County, and along with his wife, Angela- who he met in Jakarta- he is the proprietor of McCoy's CAAT (Curios, Antiques, Art, & Tapestry), the Allegheny Street shop they opened together in earlier this year. It's a feast for the eyes, McCoy's CAAT is, the kind of place where you have real trouble focusing for the first few minutes when you step inside. Exotic treasures abound, jammed into every square inch of the main room. And nearly all of it was obtained by the man sitting there sipping a cup of coffee in the middle of his shop. .
See, unlike many ex-pats living abroad, Mike didn't merely collect tchotchkes or selfies during his years of global living. He also collected treasures. I'm talking wonderfully ornate hand-carved furniture from Java; I'm talking extremely rare do-it-yourself body armor worn by native tribesmen in New Guinea; and I'm talking one of the most spectacular collections of mind-blowing Indonesian masks anywhere in the United States.
Which means McCoy's CAAT isn't a shop filled with old dry sinks and tattered buck head mounts bought at auctions in Altoona or Harrisburg. This is more of a museum to one man's life, to his travels and his love of little-known cultures. But unlike most museums, this is one where you're encouraged to take the things on display home with you if you'd like. Every piece you see or touch here has a story behind it, and it's a story Mike McCoy is anxious to share with anyone who walks through the door. Angela and Mike encourage folks to stop in even if they're only curious; they know what they have here is so unusual, not just for Bellefonte, but for any city or town in America. It just so happens to have found a home here after the couple decided to leave their Indonesian home in order to plant new roots here on a local farm. A farm that, according to Mike, quickly found it's main barn brimming with all the one-of-a-kind things items he'd been purchasing and shipping back to America all along.
So it turns out that McCoy's CAAT- named after all the stray cats they take care of on their farm- was kind of inevitable. Mike and Angela wanted to share them with people, not hide them away. Opening a shop seemed the obvious way to do just that.
Before I leave, I ask Mike how it feels to watch the beautiful things he's collected in his life walk out the front door forever. He leads me over to a set of worn bells dangling from the wall.
"See these? These are the bells off of a camel," he tells me. "My mother got them for me when I was a boy, when we were in Egypt."
I pluck them gently and their chime is sharp and clear across all the years.
"But they're not for sale," he sighs, a faraway look in his eye. "You know, some things you just have to keep forever."
130 South Allegheny Street, Bellefonte.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10-5 Saturday 10-4 (or by appointment anytime)
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