A popular local emporium for those with a curiosity of the natural world, its beauty and its oddities, is changing its location and taking its incredible menagerie down the road to the Melrose District.
After 10 years as a veterinary technician and as a college-level educator, Phoenix native Mason Conway took his interest in natural history and love of the Victorian era aesthetic and turned it into Curious Nature.
Conway found himself frustrated with the for-profit college system and at his job, so he spoke to his partner at the time, now husband, who encouraged him to quit his job and follow his passion.
“It was a scary leap of faith,” Conway said, “But it’s working out so far.”
An avid collector of natural oddities and specimens for many years, he started Curious Nature in the Roosevelt Arts District in a 300-square-foot shop, then made the move to his current location at Central Avenue and Camelback Road roughly six years ago. The current shop is 1,200 square feet of what the owner describes as a natural history gift shop, with skulls, bones, taxidermy, mounted insects and butterflies and other natural gifts.
Conway’s interest in the natural world started decades ago.
“The short version I tell people is goth kid plus animal nerd intersects here. But just for a long time I’ve been interested in the aesthetics of the Victorian era. You know, obviously, with my veterinary background and growing up with animals…the science and medicine and anatomy.
“Taxidermy and the collection of natural history specimens was a big past time that really bloomed in the Victorian era. So that’s where the aesthetic kind of tags in there.”
In addition to a wide variety of unique gifts, the shop offers classes on a monthly basis, with everything from taxidermy and entomology to tea leaf reading and a monthly art night, Still Life and Death.
The proprietor says that they are very conscious of where their items are sourced, and that they only utilize things that would otherwise be discarded.
“I lovingly say that I have a network of weirdos and different people that do different things.”
Now, the shop is headed for an even larger space, about 3,500 square feet, down the road in Melrose. Earlier this year, Conway purchased the old Hennessy Equipment building at 4346 N. 7th Ave. The move will allow for not only more retail space, but a dedicated classroom, “So we’ll be able to do more frequent classes in larger groups,” Conway added.
“I’ve wanted to be in Melrose for a long time, but the market has been crazy and there’s just been a lot of obstacles, even for us getting in this building now,” he said, adding, “This has been a goal and a dream of mine for over a decade, to be able to do something this way and my one goal for me through the business was to have a piece of property that was ours, that I could do what we needed and what we wanted to do our way.”
They have a long demolition and construction process ahead of them, but Conway is hoping to open the new space this fall. In the meantime, you can visit Curious Nature at 5032 N. Central Ave. The shop is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
For more information, call 602-314-4346 or visit www.curiousnatureshop.com.