Nancy Pew and Mark Ray flank Ray’s daughter Ashley and father Ed Ray, in
Dad’s Collectibles. In front is a model train exhibit, with accessories for
By Pete Zamplas- Dad’s Collectibles helps people shift gears into yesteryear, with miniature transportation vehicles triggering memories. Nancy Pew and Mark Ray’s shop at at 221 N. Main St. specializes in quality die-cast scale models of classic autos, motorcycles, trucks, tractors, emergency vehicles, and airplanes. There are cranes, earth movers and other construction equipment. There are also banks, sailboats, model train scenery and other accessories, and even Breyer model horses. Models range in scale from 1:8 to 1:160. A large model of the Titanic is an eye-catcher. These toys are often limited editions with serial numbers.
For instance, Dad’s has a NASCAR 1965 Ford Galaxie like the one Indy star A.J. Foyt drove. This is among merely 500 that Foyt autographed. The scale is 1:24. The pre-1971 University of Racing Legends is “one of our hottest product lines,” co-owner Mark Ray said.
Once a racer himself, Ray admires Foyt as a “diverse” champion. Foyt is the only driver to win the Indy 500 (four times), NASCAR’s Daytona 500 (in 1972), the 24 Hours of Daytona, and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt won 14 series titles (mostly in Indy cars in U.S. Auto Club) in the Sixties and Seventies. Foyt turned 79 on Jan. 16.
Model cars are dear to Ray’s heart. “It’s a reflection back on the by-gone days, on an era I’m fond of — the Sixties and Seventies,” the 52-year-old said. “I had Matchbox cars, Tonka trucks, and different Ford promotional cars.” Nancy Pew likes toy models’ “detail, and the memories they bring. America loves cars. I like the excitement people get, when they walk into the store. There’s a unique aura.” She once owned a 1956 Chevrolet.
At times, veterans come in for models of planes they flew in combat. Model rail collectors are among regular customers. Sailboats are a newer item that is catching on, Ray noted. The store’s top-selling brand is Franklin Mint die-cast cars. Brands include (English) Corgi, Harley-Davidson, Mack trucks, Caterpillar, John Deere tractors, Texaco, and Coca-Cola.
Ray and Pew bought the store two years ago, in March of 2012. The store interchangeably is called Dad’s Collectibles and its original name, Dad’s C.A.T.S. CATS stands for Collectible And Toy Store. It also reflects the CAT nickname of Caterpillar, the construction equipment maker for which Dean McWilliams was a test hydraulic engineer. Dean and (wife) Deanna, who started the store in 1998, formed the “D-a-D” or Dad part of the name.
The RMS Titanic is a large model ship, an eye-catcher in Dad’s.
Mark Ray, an N.C. State alumnus, has worked in automotive performance. He packaged and prepared high-tech “superformance” sports cars such as Ford Mustang Cobra, Mustang GT40, and Daytona Coupe which recreates Carroll Shelby’s 1964 Cobra classic. Ray owns vintage Galaxie and Mercedes actual cars. He met Pew nine years ago, and she soon purchased a Shelby Cobra from him.
Mark Ray has raced in timed sessions on major open road courses such as in Charlotte and Atlanta, and One Lap of America at a prescribed speed. His father Ed Ray worked in Ford’s WNC district sales in 1957-69, based in Charlotte where Mark grew up.
Pew also worked for Ford Motor. She worked for 28 years for Ford. Her responsibilities included as a fleet manager based in Florida, later regional manager for Ford Electronics for the entire Northeast. She grew up in Royal Oak, Mich., in metro-Detroit.
Mark Ray appreciates heritage of vehicles, and Downtown with its historic buildings. He and Pew led restoration of the McClintock Clock at Fourth and Main.
He said his project to spruce up the Coca Cola mural on what has long been the Higgins printing building at 620 N. Main is slated for 2014-15 funding, by Coke Consolidated of Charlotte. Just south of the wall is a former gas station, which he is leasing to restore inside and out it its American Oil glory days.
Preserving and restoring Downtown’s historical look and quaint feel helps heritage and business, Ray said. “It’s imperative that we incorporate all of the historic opportunities we have, to give the downtown community that additional flair and appeal. We’re truly becoming an destination for customers” from various states.
For more about Dad’s Collectibles, call 698-7525 or check dadscats.com.