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Oddities are a family business at Natural Selection

By Nora Tarte

A natural history museum you can take home with you—that’s how Emily Felch, owner of Natural Selection, describes the Midtown shop she owns with her mother, Marcy Felch.

The shop specializes in plants and oddities, and I’m not sure where else you can pick up both a new houseplant and a sheep brain in a jar. This—let’s just call it strange—juxtaposition comes from combining Emily’s and Marcy’s passions. Emily took up taxidermy as a teen while her mother has a green thumb.

“We work perfectly as business partners because the live plants soften the death,” Emily says. “We have also picked up each other’s interests. I have a hoard of houseplants, and my mom has a couple of bull and bear heads in her house.”

Among the shop’s “residents” are some not-for-sale items collected by Emily. One of the standout pieces is a taxidermied, 12-foot Burmese Python named Sid. She purchased him on Craigslist as a freshman in college, saving up her hard-earned babysitting dollars to do so. 

Some of the varied types of succulents at Natural Selection in Reno, Nev. Image: Provided by Emily Felch

“Sid was a circus performer in his previous life,” Emily shared. “I was told by the taxidermist who mounted him that Sid had a heart attack and died during the middle of an act. A few years after we opened, I had a herpetologist tell me that he believed the snake was overweight and that is likely why it had a heart attack.”

Sid is just one of many taxidermied creatures at Natural Selection. Most are for sale, and some are just there for show, like Lawrence, a giraffe head open for pets.

“My Mom and I have always been avid nature lovers, so as weird as it seems, taxidermy as a naturalist endeavor really made sense to us,” Emily says.

The clientele who visit Natural Selection are as varied as the items Emily and Marcy stock.

“We joke that one moment it’ll be a lady with face tattoos, and the next will be a grandfather and his grandkids [walking through the door],” Emily says. “The one thing all our customers have in common is a love and appreciation for the natural world.”

As you wander through the Midtown shop, you’ll notice a collection of out-of-this-world items, including animal skulls, dried scorpions, coyote penis bones (baculum) and more. 

The other part of the shop is dedicated to houseplant sales and care, including some rarer plants.

While Reno is heavy in plant shops and some local antique stores carry taxidermy, Natural Selection may be the only store to specialize in both. 

“We honestly consider them more community than competitors,” Emily says. “When you’re in a town the size of Reno it works in everyone’s interest to work together.”

While the venture started somewhat on a whim, after Emily and Marcy passed a “For Rent” sign on St. Lawrence Street in the heart of Midtown, Natural Selection has been operating successfully for eight years. 

“It’s always fun to geek out about what we love with anyone,” Emily says. “Mom and I (and all our employees) are extremely enthusiastic about what we do, so I really think it does make us stand out.”

Details

39 St. Lawrence Ave., Reno, Nev. 89509
(775) 376-2282
Wednesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday – Monday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays

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