Paxton Gate - Taxidermied Mice
San Francisco, California
A stuffed, snarling raccoon. Mice outfitted with tiny capes and gowns. A glass case of scorpions and spiders. Dried bats, dangling like demented Christmas tree ornaments.
We're in in the middle of San Francisco's Mission District. First off, it's obvious this quasi-taxidermy store isn't designed to appeal to a hunter shopping for an albino badger lamp to light his wall of 20-pt. buck trophies. Paxton Gate seems to serve the ironic (or perhaps, post-ironic) urban collector of exquisitely preserved dead things. Some of their offerings are traditional animal trophies, some are classic tourist items (i.e., jackalopes), and some are true weirdo stuff. Patrons enthusiastically decorate their apartments, find the perfect gifts for friends, or add to their own collections.
It's a mix of artistic treasures, both from the animal and plant world, along with "unique gardening merchandise." A pair of landscape designers, fascinated by taxidermy and other oddities, started the business in 1992. They eventually moved from elsewhere in the Mission to this location -- more space to display for commerce and curiosity.
We particularly liked the mounted unicorn head in the front of the store (at $4,000, a bit high for an impulse purchase). There are taxidermied mice in bishop's robes, framed butterflies, articulated pigeon and rat skeletons. You can buy a lot of this online, but it's not the same as perusing the store. They don't mind if you snap a few photos, but ask first -- they prefer no pix of some of the custom pieces by artists.
Since Paxton Gate is a store, not a museum, there's a chance some unique item spotted on one visit may have found a private home the next time you stop in. But there's sure to be new inspiration in its place.