By: Kelsey Al
The walls are lined with antique medical equipment and animal skulls. Art pieces made of furs and industrial equipment are dispersed around the two spacious, well lit rooms. The 600 Block of Downtown St.Pete is known for being the hub of our area’s creative spirit. Tucked off the main street of Central Avenue is a gem that goes by the name Dysfunctional Grace.
The taxidermy and oddity shop has been locally owned and operated in its current location for two and a half years. Co-owner Elizabeth Ann is one of the many artists that contributes to the pieces on display. In addition to her own work, Ann sells work from various artists from the area that fits the theme of the shop, which centers on the beauty of death and nature.
The prices of pieces range from as low as 20 dollars for small items such as air plants mounted in an antique frame to upwards of 3000 in the case of a real giraffe with metal gears attached to the head. The money keeps the store up and running, and commission goes to the artists that made the pieces possible.
Ann says her business began when she got fired from her previous job. She decided that she no longer wanted to be part of the corporate world. She has been making morbid artwork for about four years, beginning when her father died. According to Ann, the best part of owning Dysfunctional Grace is “being her own boss”. She loves not having to answer to anyone or following her own rules. She gets to sleep in and is surrounded by things and people she enjoys.
All of the materials used in the pieces on display in the unconventional shop are ethically obtained. No animals were harmed for the intent of the artwork. Many skulls and skins were either found from road kill or obtained from collectors. “I don’t even kill bugs” says Ann. The co-owner says she tries to keep her sources local, including searching at thrift stores and estate sales in addition to community collectors. The store and the artists involved strive to support other small businesses in the process of creating revenue in order to keep the vibe local and close knit.
Though the company does not have a high influx of customers due to its unusual nature, Dysfunctional Grace does have a lot of regulars. Ann says that a lot of her customers that visit frequently become more like friends. She allows artists to sketch the objects and pieces on display for any projects they may be working on without purchasing anything.
One regular customer, Hope Williams, says that the items in the store make great gifts for unique people that “may not want soap or candles for their birthday”. She says that a lot of her steampunk and goth friends really enjoy the store and go browsing for fun. Williams says that Dysfunctional Grace is a home away from home for the weird folks looking for a place that fulfills their curiosities.
Elizabeth Ann and her store of oddities are uncommon individuals that serve as a source of inspiration for many in the St. Pete area. While many of her neighboring stores sell art supplies like yarn and thrift store dresses with the shoulder pads cut out, Dysfunctional Grace provides an alternative to the creative community and hopes to reach a wider customer base while continuing to provide one of a kind specimens to the area.