Justin Torone, 25, and Alaina Gearhart, 20, were on their way to dinner when they spotted a groundhog carcass on the road. Naturally, they picked it up, put it in the trunk of their car and continued on to their dinner destination. Wouldn’t you?
Rest in Pieces
New taxidermy shop Rest in Pieces features vintage taxidermy pieces, bone jewelry and even mummified specimens such as opossum paws. (Photo by Jay Paul)
From that piece of road kill they collected a year ago, Torone and Gearhart created wet specimens (organs and whole animals preserved in jars) and bone displays from the deceased animal.
“We started collecting with small skulls and stuff like that,” says Gearhart.
The collection expanded to include vintage taxidermy pieces, bone jewelry and even mummified specimens such as opossum paws. Thus, Rest in Pieces (353-0919 or restinpiecesrva.com) was born, first as an online shop and now a storefront that opened in late May at 1 S. Stafford Ave. in the Fan District. The pair decided they wanted to open a shop last November, while renting a booth at the Richmond Tattoo Arts Festival, Torone says. “We sold almost everything. We had three tables of stuff and I came back with two boxes.”
Torone, who is largely self-taught, handles the preservation and inventory side of things, while Gearhart works on the website and marketing of the company. She splits her time as an apprentice at Parlor Salon downtown, where she’s working toward a career as a hairstylist. The shop is stocked with eight shelves of wet specimens, such as reptiles and fetal animals, and there are medical oddities like embalming fluid bottles and vintage blood transfusion kits, along with butterfly, scorpion and spider specimens, mummified and taxidermy pieces, and ethically sourced furs.
The partners emphasize that they do not kill animals for the purpose of selling them, and likewise will not accept any animals that have been killed by anything other than natural or accidental causes — so that excludes those that have been hunted. Gearhart says that they are preserving the animals rather than letting them deteriorate. “I consider this art, and it’s like giving everything a new life.” she says.
After relocating from Maryland about two years ago, Torone and Gearhart are excited by the response they have received thus far. “Richmond has been amazing and so supportive,” Gearhart says. “I don’t think we could have gotten that in any other city."