Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix recently gained a new member in the form of Curious Nature Fine Natural History Emporium, a gift shop for nature lovers and curiosity collectors.
The shop carries animal skulls, bones, vintage taxidermy, preserved plant and animal specimens, exotic plants, and much more, says owner Mason Conway.
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Conway says he's been collecting these things for over 10 years, as a lover of nature and the Victorian era, and it led to the concept for the store.
"Collecting natural specimens was a very popular hobby at that time, and I was looking for a new career path," he says. "The opportunity to open the shop presented itself, so I jumped at the chance."
Conway's background is in veterinary technician work and teaching others to work in that field at local colleges. Though he loves cats and dogs, his passion has always been for exotic animals, he says.
"Growing up, I had pet lizards, spiders, sugar gliders, and every kind of creepy crawly critter you can think of," Conway says. "As an adult, I've incorporated my teaching into working with some wonderful animal rescues around the Valley like The Phoenix Herpetological Society, Arizona Humane Society, and Arizona Exotic Bird Rescue."
Graphic designer Todd Burnes of Landmine Symphony has been working with Conway on all of the design, branding, and construction for the shop. Conway says he's also received a lot of support from all of his "fifth street friends" -- like Tabatha Christian from Jobot Coffee.
Additionally, Conway says his boyfriend helped inspired him to take the leap and open the shop in the first place.
"I just wanted to share the things I love with Phoenix," Conway says. "I love teaching and I love learning. This is a great opportunity for me to share my interest in the beauty of science and nature in a unique way. It's like a museum, but you can take [it] home with you. I encourage people to pick things up and touch them."
Conway says he couldn't think of a better place than downtown Phoenix for his shop, saying he loves the neighborhood and the plethora of great stores like Annie Boomer [Vintage], Cellar Door Vintage, and GROWop that call downtown Phoenix home.
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Curious Nature's inventory changes frequently, Conway says, because he's always hunting for new things. Since the store's grand opening on February 7, Conway says he's gotten a lot of positive feedback and support from the community.
Curious Nature is located at 610 East Roosevelt Avenue. The shop is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours for First and Third Fridays.