“While the fire was still burning I said, ‘We’re gonna start rebuilding tomorrow,'” said elephant-lover Ed Gotwalt. “And I stuck to it.”
Remarkably, Ed and his family and friends salvaged some 8,000 elephants from his collection of 10,000 statues, toys, and other elephantabilia. Those that couldn’t be saved are still part of the new Mister Ed’s — their fragments reworked into a double-elephant mosaic on the wall above the cash register. “It’s dedicated to all the people who helped clean and replace elephants,” said Ed, who said he received donations of over a thousand pachyderms to help restock his collection.
A new, life-size African elephant statue named “Phoenix” stands near the front of the store under a 14-foot ceiling painted to look like the sky. Ed, still in awe, referred to his new place variously as “spectacular,” “gorgeous,” “amazing-looking,” and “wonderful.” Elephant footprints on the floor lead from the candy shop back to the museum, down a corridor lined with cases filled with Ed’s new acquisitions.
Ed said that his grandkids will take over the museum “when I kick off,” but he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. “I think I’ve already outlived most elephants.”
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