Style Stud: The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 9.53.37 AMIf you hadn’t noticed, I’m a big supporter of the arts :::hair flip:::. And to be well-rounded, and a real life art nerd, you need to indulge in it all. If you’re going to check out the Barnes, you gotta hit up the PMA. And if you’re going to hit up the PMA, you have to visit the Mutter Museum (I remember the first time going there and actually getting PRETTY nauseous, but I was also hungover so the cause is debatable).

Nothing excites me more than when a new store opens in Philly, especially one that will knock the vintage, oddities, and antique scene on its head. The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia, opening September 12, 2015 to the public at 3 p.m. will do just that, and according to one of the masterminds behind the store, is a mixture of “weird and pretty” … which quite frankly made me swoon … just a little

I had the pleasure of chatting with good friend and renowned taxidermist in the Philly art scene, Kristie Matt, who is part owner of the Strange and Unusual Philadelphia with her husband, Steve Matt, along with Josh Balz and Ryan Malarky. 

Oddities lovers. Vintage collectors. Antique animals. Taxidermy enthusiasts. Abstract jewelry hounds (myself included). And the lover of the arts. There is truly something for everyone at the Strange and Unusual. Please join me on September 12 at 3 p.m., 523 S. 4th St at their grand opening and check out their beautifully curated collections for yourselves.

How was the Strange and Unusual born?

The Strange and Unusual was conceived as a brick and mortar location to house the growing collection of our business partners, Josh Balz and Ryan Malarky. Their ever expanding collection of oddities and antiques had outgrown their living space and they decided they wanted a retail location to share their collection with the world. So a couple of years ago, they opened the flagship Strange and Unusual store in Kingston, PA. 

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What is your background and how did you get started with the Strange and Unusual?

I am a self taught taxidermist with a background in Fine Art. A few years ago my royal rodent taxidermy caught the eye of Ryan, and she contacted me requesting that I consign my work at her Kingston store. Following the store’s Instagram account led me to realize that the way their shop was curated was completely in line with my own personal aesthetic. So basically, I chose the Strange and Unusual because it was in my native state of PA, and because it was just really beautiful to me. Weird and pretty. My favorite combination.

What made you open this store in Philly?

Steve and I had known for several years that we wanted to open a retail business of our own, preferably an oddities/antique business. We have been collecting taxidermy and oddities together for over a decade. Our house is overflowing! At some point I mentioned to Ryan that Philly was sorely lacking a business like hers, and offered to pool our resources and team up. Thus the Strange and Unusual Philadelphia partnership was born.

We chose the South Street area because it has a tradition of being offbeat and fun. Plus, someone has to bring the weird back! I grew up hanging out on South Street and I am very proud to become a member of the business community there. I hope we can contribute to making it the destination that it was when I was growing up.

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What sets the Strange and Unusual apart from other vintage/oddity stores in Philly?

The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia is not your grandmothers antique store and it is not a college kids thrift store. It is a meticulously curated, macabre lifestyle boutique featuring unique items both new and old, with an emphasis on the dark, mysterious, and beautiful.

Will you be hosting any events at the store?

We hope to host many, many special events that will bind our community together. Taxidermy contests, tutorials, pop-up artist shops, and much more. Stay tuned. 

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What kind of brands do you carry?

Most of the items we carry are vintage, antique, or are ethically sourced new taxidermy specimens. The one brand that we are very proud to offer, though, is Black Craft Cult.

We are also very proud of the cross promotion that we will be doing with Philadelphia’s own Mutter Museum. There is a great deal of overlap between those who visit the medical oddity museum and those who we hope will come to visit our store. We intend to carry some of the museum’s t-shirts and books. Additionally, we will be offering reciprocal discount on museum admission and our merchandise. 

When will you be open to the public? What are your hours?

The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia will open its doors to the public on Saturday, September 12 at 3 p.m. Our hours most likely will be Tuesday-Sunday from noon-8 p.m.

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What are some items you will be carrying that you are most excited about?

I am most excited to be able to feature my own taxidermy designs. My company is called Cloven Hoof and I’m thrilled to have a permanent, year-round, brick and mortar location where one can find it. 

Are you showcasing any local designers/artists?

Yes we are! Myself, as mentioned, and other cosigners are in the works. When the ink is dry, I will be able to disclose exactly whom. We will always try to support local artists.

For people who may not be comfortable with taxidermy, what other cool things can they find at the store? 

Many items. Antique medical instruments, inspired vanity items, jewelry both new and old, books on witchcraft and the occult, tarot decks, vintage Ouija boards, amazing gothic-style furniture. There’s a lot more to our store than death. Though to us, death is only the beginning! 

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