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Hyenas © torbakhopper/Flickr
Hyenas © torbakhopper/Flickr
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Is This San Francisco's Creepiest Store?

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 2 November 2016
Welcome to Paxton Gate, a 2000 square foot store on Valencia Street in the Mission District. The store’s shelves are crowded with a mysterious selection of taxidermied animals, skulls and bones, strange plants, and other unusual home goods. Explore the shop to find something completely unique to gift to your quirkiest friends, or decorate your home like something out of the first season of True Detective.

Founder and current owner of Paxton Gate, Sean Quigley, originally intended to open merely a landscaping business. In December of 1992, Paxton Gate opened its first set of doors. The original shop spanned a measly 300 square feet, tucked away in a hidden alley off of Market Street. The space was filled with random gardening merchandise and other eccentric goods, all inspired by the natural world, and the business offered landscaping services. Soon, the collection began leaning toward the more bizarre, creepy aspects of nature, filling the store with such goods as rare insects and taxidermied animals. This unique personality began to draw a small crowd, and after being open for seven years the store became too full for its tiny space.

Paxton Gate packed up and moved to its current location on Valencia in 1999, more than quadrupling its size and allowing it to incorporate items like furniture, architectural elements, jewelry, personal goods, books, and more. It also allowed the business to show off its landscaping expertise with a backyard garden, giving visitors a taste of tranquility among the hectic streets surrounding the shop. Since then, it has grown to become an iconic landmark in the neighborhood, drawing attention from a variety of media sources. Trey Bundy put it well in the SF Chronicle, describing it as ‘store full of rat skulls, test tubes and petrified bats…the store has morphed into a veritable gallery of nature-linked oddities, including antique science and landscaping equipment; exotic teas; books; plants; jewelry; prehistoric fossils; and big- and small-game taxidermy…With a garden out back and a kids’ store down the block, Paxton Gate might be the city’s most wholesome place to get weird.’

Thanks to the success of Paxton Gate, Quigley has been able to open two more stores, including Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids and a classic Paxton Gate location in Portland, Oregon. Visit one of the stores to browse through an incredible selection of goods, covering categories like plants and garden, natural sciences, home décor, personal goods, and books and cards.

Paxton Gate Portland © mike krzeszak/Flickr
Paxton Gate Portland | © mike krzeszak/Flickr