If you’ve been to Paxton Gate before, you’ve had the chance to admire the numerous oddities offered up for sale and examination. Take for instance the taxidermied hyena, perched high above its visitors. Or, there’s the collection of iridescent Southeast Asian butterflies, alongside a large display of insects. On each visit, it’s ok to transform into a six-year-old, nose pressed to the glass, ooh-ing and aah-ing. You might even find yourself reaching towards the carnivorous plants, despite the sign strongly advising against it. Paxton Gate offers one a chance to admire nature up close, whether it be in jewelry, animal, or art form.
Curious to learn more about Paxton Gate and its curators, we contacted owners Andy and Susan Brown. They gave us a guided tour of the store, pointing out must-sees while humorously answering our questions.
E+E: What made you decide to open up a Paxton Gate in Portland?Andy Brown: We wanted to have our own business. We always loved the SF store and thought PG was a great fit for our interests, experiences and hopefully, for Portland. We moved from SF to NYC then to PDX because we love the West Coast! Susan is from here so we came back often to visit her family. Her mom is still here, so it just made sense.E+E: Who are your usual customers?AB: We have a wide variety! Luckily for us, everyone seems to have an affinity for the store…or at least knows someone who would love it, from scientists to children. We are fortunate to have become a destination spot for our customers to bring their friends and family to peruse the wide array of oddities, taxidermy, framed insects, fascinating nature-based jewelry, art and well, everything.E+E: Has anything bizarre happened? Any interesting requests?AB: We have a semi-regular customer who, he and his daughter, have a taxidermy phobia. They love the store, they just don’t really look up!E+E: Have you ever taxidermied anything?AB: Not yet, but my wife, a vegetarian by the way, has cleaned a couple skulls. She actually gave me a mouse skull in resin that she had done in high school, when we got married.E+E: Can't beat a gift like that. What is your home like? Do you have items similar to those featured in the store?AB: Yes, we have lots of Tillandsias, art, insects and photos from traveling, etc. We try to leave the big guys at the store.E+E: What is your favorite animal and why?AB: Wow! Currently I’d have to say Hugo, our Boston Terrier. But animals at the store…another tough one. So many of them are fantastic in their own right.E+E: Do you ever get attached to anything you've had for sale?AB: Most definitely! The lion jumping out of the wall was difficult to part with. One of our employees found a 6 armed starfish that she quickly snapped up. We get attached but are glad to see they are going to a home that will love them as much as we do.E+E: What was it like to have Portlandia shoot at your store?AB: It was awesome. Fred, Carrie and Jeff Goldblum… Perfect! We did some trade and have some framed knots from the show in the store. Our customers love to see them.E+E: What do you enjoy most about Portland?AB: Definitely the vibe and people. Also, access to Mt. Hood and the coast is awesome.Paxton Gate also offers a variety of events throughout the year, some involving taxidermy itself (event titled “Insect Safari”) and others showcasing the work of featured artists (most recently, jewelry designer Lauren Wolf). For the foodies, PG is also bringing in The Bug Chef, David George Gordon, to cook up some tasty grasshoppers, water bugs, and scorpions.For those with concerns regarding the taxidermied specimens, please rest assured. The business goes out of its way to only show animals that have either died of natural causes or were trapped and euthanized humanely, from animal care and control programs intended to manage wildlife populations. Paxton Gate does not endorse the inhumane treatment of animals or the trade of poached or endangered animals.Paxton Gate4204 N MIssissippi AvenuePortland, OR 97217503.719.4508Upcoming EventsPhaedra Dunko’s Carnivorous Bog ClassSunday, Augst 12th12-1pmLearn how to make a carnivorous bog the Paxton Gate way!