Taxidermy pieces, Sriracha-flavoured crickets, voodoo dolls, and decorative human bones—no, this isn’t the set of a much-delayed Beetlejuice sequel. Rather, they’re a handful of the quirky oddities available at This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven (3957 Main Street), the latest shop to hit Vancouver’s Riley Park ’hood.
Before you ask, yes, the store takes its name from the classic Pixies song. But the moniker is also a nod to the weird and wild spirits that fill the warm, sky-blue room. Think cycling stuffed mice—dressed in their Sunday best à la Dinner for Schmucks—lucky rabbit’s feet, and glittering piggy banks cast from moulds of real-life piglets.
“It’s kind of where antiquing and art, and nature and science, all collide in one space,” says Rachel Zottenberg, one of three co-owners of the shop, during an interview with the Straight, “so I find there are a lot more storylines to everything. There’s a lot more history to where everything’s from; there’s a lot more significance to the pieces.”
Zottenberg, who also co-owns Uncle Abe’s, the Emerald Supper Club, and the Narrow Lounge, comes from a background in curatorial art and has always been fond of the “strange, scientific, and wonderful”, especially when it comes to décor. Teaming up with co-owners David Duprey and Tanya Ebach, the restaurant-industry vet jumped at the opportunity to open a space where she could share her offbeat finds with others.
“We’ve always wanted to do a store like this in Vancouver,” she says, “just a strange oddity shop.”
From the peculiar to the enchanting to the just-downright-crazy, the stock at This Monkey’s likely compares to nothing you’ve seen before. Taxidermy pieces, such as deer heads, mice, and muskrats, are littered throughout the store, while a gallerylike insect wall is unmissable in one corner. (Look out for the giant Death’s-head hawkmoth, a bug made popular by The Silence of the Lambs.)
Zottenberg works with academics, historical trappers, and avid collectors from across the globe to source handcrafted voodoo dolls, ant-infused lollipops, articulated cat skeletons, and shrunken heads. The shop’s wet-specimen area includes preserved armadillo babies, diaphonized rats, and tiny octopi, plus slivers of real human brain and vertebrae, which are provided by a Canadian anatomist.
For the squeamish, This Monkey’s also carries a host of decorative goods for the home. Check out the lab beakers, hourglasses, and Okanagan-made smudge-sticks (bundles of aromatic herbs typically used as incense), as well as a range of eccentric wall art by local artist Mia Dungeon.
If you’re looking to feed a tot’s budding interest in science, there are microscopes, build-your-own-volcano sets, and fascinatingly adorable stuffies modeled after the molecular structures of viruses like chicken pox and the common cold.
“It’s a lot of education and it opens up your mind to what’s actually out there,” Zottenberg says of the stock. “We really think of ourselves as nature people in Vancouver, but how much nature do we actually know?”
And though the wacky-minded and scientifically inclined will undoubtedly find themselves entranced by This Monkey’s offbeat offerings, Zottenberg stresses that the shop has something for everyone. “I think most of us really need to reconnect with what this stuff is and why it’s here,” she adds.