New Cape antique store offers wares collected by world traveler

Monday, December 16, 2002

You can prove that Unexpected Treasures is inappropriately named, but only if you walk into Cape Girardeau's newest antique store and are unimpressed to see a six-foot sarcophagus, a face cast of Alfred Hitchcock or a deactivated airplane bomb.

"We live up to the name," said Mustafa Kemal Stokely, the 40-year-old owner who opened the shop last week at 622 Broadway.

Stokely, the son of an American father and Turkish mother, is putting most of his life's collection on sale -- unique items he's stashed away since his youth in Istanbul and throughout his years as a U.S. soldier in Germany, a musician in the French Quarter, a low-level worker in the Pentagon and on his frequent visits to Paris, Manhattan and other spots around the world.

"I've always been a collector of art and antiques," said Stokely, who has been in Cape Girardeau since 1992.

The shop, still dusty but taking shape last week, is testament to that. There is the sarcophagus, which is a replica of an Egyptian coffin, used in ancient times to bury mummified bodies of heads of state. Nearby, with poppy jazz music playing overhead, there's an old-fashioned candlestick phone that works.

There's also a World War I medical corps uniform, the replicas of Greek statues, the 1960 German-made radio, the 50-year-old piano and the face casts of Alfred Hitchcock, Humphrey Bogart and Marlon Brando.

There's also some autographed books, artwork and other collectibles.

"These are things I've collected over my life, whether I was traveling or living somewhere," he said. "I've gotten some of them from friends, things like that. But I always have my eye open."

Stokely said he was raised in an environment that cultivated his pack-rat mentality.

"When I was growing up in Istanbul, I was immersed in rich culture," he said. "Art is so important there. It's going to be so tough to get rid of things that I don't want to sell."

After serving in the U.S. Army, he took a job working in Washington at the Pentagon, where he investigated certain military complaints. But he got tired of the 12-hour days and decided he wanted to pursue his love in music, and played guitar in New Orleans, Paris and other places. He still plays a few times a week on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.

"It was bumming around," he said. "I was broke and I'd play on the street. But I had a wonderful time. And I found all these wonderful things along the way."

He said he always went out of his way to find interesting and different items.

"I like finding something in the rough, something that people had neglected for a while," he said. "I like bringing something back to life."

For example, the old-fashioned phone was broken and the dial wouldn't even turn. But he figured out how to fix it and was pleased with the way it looked when he was done.

"I like making something old look good," he said.

Now Stokley's looking to settle down and make a more stable life for himself in Southeast Missouri. His friends, who saw his vast collection, said he had plenty of things that would be great for an antique store.

And Stokely knows the store will be appealing to a certain type of buyer: "A curious person, someone who is interested in antiques and history and art," he said. "Someone who doesn't mind dust. Someone looking for a unique experience."

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