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Mike Igoe moves from cellar to seller

Former TV reporter Mike Igoe has already reinvented himself at least once. He left television to become an assistant professor of communication at SUNY Fredonia State College.

Now, he is back in the spotlight, because of his new gig: shopkeeper.

For decades, Igoe has been collecting vestiges of the past. In college he bought a barber chair, because it reminded him of the chair he sat in to get his hair cut when he was a kid. And the rest was history.

When Igoe got married, he brought along his old friend, the barber chair. As he moved through life, he added more items to keep it company. Oak ice boxes. Vintage cereal boxes. Cigarette posters. ("Buy L&M Filters Here!") Ancient crank telephones. Barrels, beer signs, bar stools, baskets. In they flowed, from all over the country.

A small box of shredded wheat, an Iroquois beer ash tray and more are part of his collection. Click on the photo to view more images. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

As years passed, his collection of historic oddments expanded to fill the basement of his Clarence home.

Eventually a neighbor, surveying the subterranean wonderland, hit on the one thing to give to the man who had everything. He built Igoe a general store to go in his basement and display his collection of esoterica with the dignity they deserved.

[Gallery: Inside Mike Igoe's General Store]

Igoe told The News that at his Christmas parties, the general store stole the show.

"People would say, 'Oh, my gosh, this guy has a general store,' " he laughed. "One lady, one year, she had come from another party. She went into the basement, came back, and said, 'I definitely have had too much to drink today.' "

Mike Igoe collected so much stuff in his basement that his neighbor actually built him a general store. Click on the photo to view more images of the collection. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The general store, showcasing Igoe's treasures, was a museum. Until now. Now, the store is finally open for business.

He and his wife are downsizing, Igoe explained. More accurately, HE is downsizing. The stuff is his, not hers.

"She just begrudgingly puts up with it," he said.

The couple weren't into the idea of a traditional sale, held at the house with strangers tramping through. So they found a different option -- an online auction. The sale is being handled by Moyer Auction & Estate Co., based in Alden. It began May 16, and ends at 8 p.m. June 6.

"He's been fantastic to work with. He enjoyed it, and we love the business," said Randy Moyer Jr., who runs the auction company with his father.

The general store's contents are finally being sold in an online auction at at his home, in Clarence. Click on the photo to view more images of the collection. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Moyer didn't see Igoe as a particularly special case. "We run into this kind of stuff all the time," he said.

But he was intrigued by certain aspects of Igoe's collection. The cigarette advertising, for instance. And the "petroliana," inside lingo for historic gas station-related items.

"You don't run across things like that every day. That's something different," he said. "Not everyone has a general store in his basement."

The website displays 129 lots. Some are in groups, as in "Group of Egg-Related Items," "Group of Ice Cream Related Items," and "Singer Sewing Machines." Other items stand proudly alone. "U.S. Post Office Delivery Window." "Pharmacy Door." "La Crosse Rubber Footwear Wood Box." "Johnson Foot Relief Display Cabinet." Lot No. 80 is a Buffalo News honor box.

A collection of Blue Bird handkerchiefs for men. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Online, it may not have the romance of Vidler's Five and Ten. But a day in, the cellar seller was happy with how things were going. Broadcast colleagues from his former life - specifically from channels 4 and 7 had -- also did stories.

"One thing already doing well is glass gas bottles, from the gas station," Igoe said. "Before you had metal gas cans, that's what you had."

A player piano, a plastic Kellogg's corn flakes display case, a U.S. postage stamps vending machine ... is there anything Igoe didn't buy, over the years?

Corn Flakes cereal boxes, and many other classic varieties, through the years. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

"I went to a church sale and I rejected a confessional," he confessed. "I didn't think it was appropriate."

But everything else is there. Igoe, who majored in history at SUNY Albany, always had an eye for the old and the beautiful.

"I have old-time detergents. They'll go as a group," he said.

"There's barber stuff, there's detergent, there's a wringer/washer," he added, reeling these items off as casually as if talking about what's on sale at Tops. "There's over 100 lots.

"There's lots of stuff."

Mike Igoe relaxes in a chair inside his general store, which is now open to an online auction. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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