Keep Andersonville Weird: A Sit Down with Skye Rust of Woolly Mammoth

Keep Andersonville Weird: A Sit Down with Skye Rust of Woolly Mammoth

Written By: ChicagoAF

Love is a strange and beautiful thing – and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner – what better way to celebrate than with something strange and beautiful from Andersonville’s legendary Woolly Mammoth. From unique taxidermy and meticulously preserved specimens, to vintage medical oddities and other antique curiosities from around the world, Woolly Mammoth has something for everyone with a love of the unusual.  Having the chance to sit down with one of the owners and founders Skye Rust, we got a chance to briefly discuss the store’s origin, the benefits of working alongside your husband, and the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for someone sick of chocolate and roses!

Steven: You guys have been around almost 13 years now. That’s such an amazing accomplishment! Looking back through those years, are there any memorable moments that come to mind through this journey of store ownership?

Skye: We got married in 2009, so it was the summer of 2010 that we opened. There’s so many memorable moments. It’s just this living experiment and experience that fill us with joy and happiness and excitement to come here all of the time.

It’s probably been most exciting for us when we have stumbled upon something we’ve never seen before. Those moments when we can find something out in the world that we have never heard of or seen before. So it’s the adventures that happened outside the store that fill us with happiness that hopefully seeps out when we’re physically in the store.

Steve: Knowing what you know now, is there anything that you wish you could tell you and your husband back then to prep for this journey?

Skye: We have a hard time looking back at pictures of the shop when we first open for probably like the first year because there’s stuff in there that’s just so awkward. But very, very early on another antique dealer in the neighborhood said, “Sell what you love and you can’t go wrong” and I think we learned that lesson quickly.

The awkwardness is part of the journey, and we got that memo quick enough that we made it exactly that. Everything in here is our aesthetic, 99.9% of the things in here I would be fine if we never sold and hung on our wall at home.

Steven: How did the idea for the store come to be?

Skye: We were on our honeymoon in Transylvania, climbing up a wooded path to this fortress that Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, had built on the bones of the workers that built the fortress and we’re like, “This adventure is great! How do we keep this adventure going? How do we have an adventure in our everyday lives?”

We both came from antiquing families, we lived in Andersonville, maybe we should open a shop and maybe it could be that but with our own spin on it. We were so filled with excitement, we got home and within three months we opened.


Steven:  How did you end up deciding on Andersonville?

Skye: When we moved in together we moved in an apartment in Andersonville and loved the walkability of interesting businesses and the proximity to the lake.

We kept seeing places come and go and remembered this storefront that was so close to our apartment. When we found out what the rent was, we were like okay, if it doesn’t work out rent for a year plus expenses for a year, we’ll suck it up as a loss.

We didn’t we didn’t have much to risk at that point so it was a lot easier to take that leap.

Steven: I’m going to assume the store attracts people from all over the world, right? Have you ever been surprised by who’s walked through that door?

Skye: It’s always exciting. When folks tell us where they’re from, finding out people’s stories, it’s always this humbling experience learning about other people and where they come from.

We had a Ukrainian television show come in here and shoot us. A couple of months ago we had a Spanish television show and it’s so endearing and sweet and awesome.

Steven:  Do you guys get any weird requests for stuff that you guys don’t have in stock? Like I’m looking for this? Can you help me out?

Skye: We get a lot of people that want to know if something’s haunted or not. But otherwise, our threshold of weird is so skewed that nothing stands out is like an unusual request. We get a lot of “Is there anything haunted” and we got a strange email the other day where someone was like, “there’s a spiritual piece of your taxidermy that followed me home and I wake up at the middle of the night and it’s hanging on my wall”. Not real, spiritually it’s there. She wants us to know warn people that come in to be spiritually strong enough to come in here.

Steven:  You mentioned that one of your favorite things is going out in the wild and finding something new to bring into the store. Are there any dream pieces that you could think of?

Skye: We both love antiquity and age, we strive to only have old stuff in here. One of my white whales is a burial bell that they would wrap a string around someone’s finger when they buried them and should they come back to life or should they wake up from not really having been dead and been buried alive, they would ring the bell with their finger. We saw one of those at a funeral Museum in Vienna and that’s one of my white whale whales.

Steven: Running a store with your partner that certainly comes with its own set of challenges. What would you say are the benefits of running a literal ma and pa store?

Skye: We make all the decisions. We have ultimate freedom and can do what we want and don’t have to follow anybody else’s rules.

Steven: With Valentine’s Day around the corner do you have any romantic ideas for a gift for someone for their partner?

Skye: We have a beautiful slice of sheep heart in a jar that’s just an exquisite sculpture. I mean, nature makes the best sculpture so you can’t get more beautiful than that.


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