By: Taiyana Levy (Senn Sophomore)
The sight of odd and unique oddities greets visitors to Woolly Mammoth Chicago (1513 W Foster Ave). When you walk in, you feel like you’ve dropped out of time! It’s the curio shop you never knew you needed, stocking everything from anatomical models, to Victorian jewelry, to a genuine bezoar from the Hague and a two-headed calf. Each piece has been hand-selected and it shows in the store’s meticulous organization. All kinds of antiques, medical instruments, taxidermy, and more fill the store.
Couple Adam and Skye Rust, are the owners of Woolly Mammoth. They opened the store 12 years ago, creating a place where all of your weird niche interests will be recognized right in the gathering heart of Chicago’s North Side.
Adam and Skye are the owners, but they have help to keep the place up and running while they are away or taking time off.
“We were here every single day, the first few years,” Adam said. “But, now we can take time off when we need to. But we stay open with our shopkeepers helping us.”
Adam said his experience opening the store was “nerve-racking.”
“When you’re doing something new for the first time you don’t know what’s happening, it’s like a scary adventure,” he said.
One of Adam’s first experiences with taxidermy was at 12-years-old when his parents bought him a taxidermied alligator.
“My parents bought lots of antiques at auctions,” Adam said. “I was always around this kind of weird stuff. And when I was in college, I used a piece of roadkill for an art project”
Adam said one day he and his wife just decided they wanted to open a store “to sell antiques and oddities.”
The store didn’t always look the way it does now, “It looks a lot different from when it first opened,” Adam said. “It was way more vintage and almost like a thrift store.”
Sometimes money just isn’t worth the art; when Woolly Mammoth Chicago first opened everything was for sale until Adam and Skye realized they sold some things they regretted selling.
“We didn’t realize at the time that we’d never be able to have the opportunity to own some of that stuff again,” Adam said. “So now there’s stuff in here that’s part of the permanent collection.”
But there are plenty of things that you can buy and rent. You can rent some of the pieces for photoshoots, movies, or TV show props. Woolly mammoth has been rented out a couple times for films.
Adam and Skye haven’t stuffed anything in quite some time, “Skye got us a taxidermy apprenticeship at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum where we stuffed a bird,” Adam said. “And that was the last time we’ve stuffed anything. Everything in the store is mostly vintage or antique.”
Woolly Mammoth used to run taxidermy classes about 10 years ago.
“We’d have guest taxidermists come in and folks could come into the class and learn how to do some stuff, but we haven’t done that in a long time,” Adam said.
For those who are interested, they have merchandise, t-shirts, stickers, patches, etc. All of it they design in-house.
Though Wooly Mammoth is always looking for the next thing, they don’t plan on expanding anytime soon. “We’re always buying new stuff and checking out new private collections, but we don’t want to get a bigger space,” Adam said. “This is already plenty to manage. We don’t need to make life any harder than it is. We’re happy right where we’re at.”