Undoubtedly, Soho is a location that has a lot to offer. One can choose from the plethora of luxury boutiques and sift through high-end clothing labels. Or one can indulge in the many scents exiting charming restaurants, which pepper the bustling streets. The historic cast-iron buildings are always available for a quick photo-op, and on the right day (or night) celebrity sightings can occur. Yet Soho has something else to offer, which will result in gawking, wondering, and the option of exiting a store with a human skull tucked under your arm.
Sure the latter may seem somewhat out-of-place in contrast to the boutiques and restaurants, but the truth is that yes, animal skulls, human skulls, and another number of “oddities” can be found within the popular neighborhood.
At 120 Spring Street (closeby to the Trump Soho Condominiums), directly off Broadway, lies The Evolution Store. It’s the only store on the block (and perhaps the only store in Soho) with a human skeleton perched outside its door. A sign adorning a skull dances above the establishment, remnant of a pirate flag (but lacking the danger), and a window display offers a glimpse of what’s to be found on the other side of the door.
For two decades The Evolution Store has possessed its present abode in Soho. Originally starting off as a ‘curiosity shop,’ it is now often confused as a museum. Once inside, however, price-tags are attached to human skeletons, taxidermy animals, framed insects, and a number of fossils, and to many people’s astonishment, everything is up for sale.
Although clouds dropped rain onto the city the day I ventured to The Evolution Store, hushed ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ exited a surprisingly large group of customers. They commented on the skeletal remains of animals, stroked the zebra rug, and asked the awaiting staff: “Is this stuff real?”
The manager of the store, Alex Minott was kind enough to meet with me to discuss the sheer oddness of the store. “We offer the trappings of science,” he said to me after we ventured to the second floor. The setup was very museumesque, and during the duration of our interview I couldn’t help catching glimpses of a large crustacean situated over Alex’s shoulder.
Having been manager there for thirteen years, Alex has developed an eye for what will appeal to customers. The foot-traffic of the neighborhood allows for many different people to enter and exit the store. Most remain in an air of awe at where they are and what they’re looking at, while others shudder at the sight of fetal skeletons and framed tarantulas.
Many items within The Evolution Store are sold to people looking to spruce up their homes with objects from the natural world. They sell a number of animal skin rugs, beautiful Geode bookends, phrenology heads, as well as shrunken heads (if you’re into that sort of thing).
The subject of Alex’s own interior decorating came up, and he confessed to being a “fossil nut.” He rattled off an impressive list of items that can be found in his house. “I have quite a collection that I’ve mastered over the years. I do have a collection of different kinds of animal skulls, quite a fossil collection, trilobite collection, animal teeth of various kinds, and I’m very partial to crustaceans.” Although he’s strictly against bear-skin rugs in his own home and isn’t much into the taxidermy department, he does admit to having a stuffed chameleon which he found too interesting to let go.
When asked where the store may have flourished elsewhere in Manhattan, Alex hesitated. He juggled between the West Village and the East Village, until he eventually dropped the question altogether. “Around New York I don’t know where else could have worked,” he says, “Soho is a tourist destination for a lot of people, the fact that we managed to be in this neighborhood for as long as we have, has made us kind of a facet of the neighborhood. I think it helps the tourism.”
For those who find themselves at a loss for fresh ideas when decorating their homes, why not start at a shrunken head, consider a stuffed mountain cat, or indulge in beautifully colored moths and butterflies?