The Real McCoy

A prominent dealer of fine French antiques moves to Memphis.



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Mary Helen’s professional credentials and affiliations are as long as your arm and far too many to list here. Suffice it to say that Mary Helen McCoy Fine Antiques is one of the nation’s premier sources for fine and unique French furniture from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth century, with a special emphasis on the eighteenth century. She also takes on a variety of high-end design jobs, including privately procuring fine antiques and art for select clients, and working alongside architects and landscape designers to furnish a variety of interior design and garden elements. Without being the least boastful, she proudly says that “we know the right people,” which translates to the fact that she and her husband have a network of prominent professionals (including art historians) who alert them when items of special interest come on the market. Mary Helen has exhibited in major national and international fine art and antiques fairs and has been featured in publications both here and abroad. She was asked to become a member of the National Antique & Art Dealers Association of America, Inc., in 2008 and is on the board of the Art and Antique Dealers League of America.

Mary Helen is, in her words, “on a mission to bring her clients the ultimate in period furniture and decorative arts.” The word she uses over and over when describing her pieces of antique French furniture is “important,” which I believe conveys the high level she operates on. Yet at the same time, while grounded in the traditional, she tells me she likes to “sometimes mix it up” and is always open to more modern design to add balance to her interiors, adding too that she would rather see a “good reproduction” than a poor quality antique.

After we photographed the house, I sat down with Mary Helen and Ron to talk on a more personal note. I learned that Ron is a retired accountant who claims his role in the business is to help his wife in any way he can, which he says amounts to “arranging for packing and transporting her antiques to wherever they are supposed to go.” He is being modest, of course, since they are clearly a devoted team.

And unlike the stereotypical image of the somewhat stuffy, top-drawer antiques dealer, Mary Helen is ever so forthcoming and friendly. She is proud of her “100 percent Greek heritage,” pointing to photos of her grandmother who spoke five languages, and her mother, Miss Alabama of 1943; she’s now the oldest living woman with that title! In a family environment rich in both European and Southern culture, Mary Helen credits these two with nurturing her love of beautiful things, which later became her life’s work.

The McCoys are counting on becoming active participants in Memphis community life and already plan to host a Decorative Arts Trust event at their home. They have been warmly received in Memphis by both old and new friends for whom they are very grateful. The added good news is that visiting their son Michael and other friends and family in Birmingham is just a leisurely three-hour drive. This all makes this the best of both worlds for Mary Helen and Ron, and I for one am joining the “Greek” chorus in saying, “Welcome to Memphis.”

To contact Mary Helen McCoy she can be reached at (901) 786-8115. And to read more about her business, check out her website www.maryhelenmccoy.com. Business hours are by appointment only. 

 

Anne Cunningham O’Neill is the arts & lifestyle editor of Memphis magazine.

 

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