Midtown Reno stores focus on taxidermy, mineral treasures and more
RENO, Nev. — Two small stores in Reno’s Midtown district have found a niche catering to customers’ desires for a bit of nature at home.
Natural Selection, which sells vintage taxidermy, plants and other zoological and botanical specimens, along with a selection of minerals, has been operating out of a small brick building on St. Lawrence Avenue since 2014, its wares displayed as though they were in a Victorian-era curiosity cabinet.
Just around the corner on South Virginia Street, the 18-month-old Crystal Cove-Gifts of the Earth store has a greater display of Earth’s mineral treasures, though it presents them with as much a metaphysical focus as a mineralogical one, alongside spiritually oriented products such as meditation candles and prayer flags.
Both stores’ owners based their business on lifelong interests in bringing nature into their lives.
For Natural Selection’s Emily Felch, who co-owns the store with her mother, Marcy, her retail business came from following a middle-school hobby, albeit one that doesn’t occur to most seventh-grade students.
“I always loved animals, and that translated into taxidermy when I was in seventh grade,” she said. “I had read a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and one of his hobbies was taxidermy.
“I thought it sounded really fun.”
She began teaching herself the art by using household tools, starting with scissors and a Swiss army knife, to skin and mount animals that had been killed in traffic, her first subject being a marmot she retrieved on her way home from babysitting.
Felch freely admits that hers was not a usual teenager’s pastime.
“It’s a super weird hobby and a really weird lifestyle, which is what I consider it now because I do it for work,” Felch said.
She decided to turn her hobby into her profession after deciding that college was not for her.
“My mom and I talked about starting an online store, because I’d seen an uptick in people’s appreciation for nature and this disconnect we have with technology,” Felch said. “I decided this was something I wanted to do, and if it didn’t work out, then at the very least I’d have a bunch of cool stuff that I loved.”
And she has an answer for those who might object to her choice of zoological merchandise, which she points out either comes from old private collections or from discards from hunters and trappers.
“I try to present it in as respectful a fashion as I can,” she said. “I get a little bit of push back, but with most people, if they don’t like it, they don’t come in.”
Laura Peppard already was running The Mystic Rose, a metaphysical supply store on Hillcrest Drive that she opened in 2000, as well as operating the adjoining Reno Psychic Institute when she opened Crystal Cove in June 2016.
The store, part of an older building set back from the street, caught her eye and gave her thoughts about setting up shop in Midtown.
“I thought, Well, I have one business here — what the heck, I can do two.’ Turned out, it was a lot more work than I thought,” Peppard said with a laugh.
The extra work? It was simply having to repeat the process she followed when she set up The Mystic Rose, from business licensing to stocking the store.
“You have to do everything twice. You have to get more insurance, you have to go through all the steps,” she said.
For both Peppard and Felch, though, this “jump in and go for it” attitude helped get them past the difficulties of opening a new business.
“Just do it. It’s terrifying, and it’s stressful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Felch said. “It’s wonderful; I have zero regrets with it. Even if it were to tank tomorrow, I have no regrets with it.”
“Where you’ve got a passion and a vision is where it’s going to work,” Peppard added. “You’ve just got to keep at it, day after day, month after month. You get somewhere if you do that. You’re either a merchant at heart or you’re not.”
Peppard said her customers are interested in both the geological and spiritual aspects of the rocks and crystals she sells — though with a tilt in favor of the metaphysical group.
“It’s really wonderful to see people appreciate the natural world and the amazing beauty and mystery of it,” she said. “Every stone and mineral specimen is unique, and you really learn about the planet and the forces that go into creating the different minerals.”
Felch also said she has a mix of people in her customer base.
“It really varies. I’ve been consistently surprised by it,” she said. “I’ll have a grandmother and her grandkids at one moment, and the next it will be a dude with face tattoos. I think a lot of people enjoy this kind of thing.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.