By David Chiodaroli
The community of Hampden in North Baltimore is a fairly Bohemian town. Art galleries, coffee shops, and homely ice cream parlors abound. But tucked away in a corner of the neighborhood, behind the walls of a neon-green row home on Chestnut Avenue, is something seemingly out of a mad scientist’s lab. The name of the little store is Bazaar, a shop of curiosities and collectibles that has provided the Baltimore-Washing- ton area with its fix of the weird and wonderful. From quack medical implements to the many taxidermized animals that cover the walls, Bazaar has something for everyone.
The co-owner of Bazaar, Greg Hatem, took time out of his day off to show us around his boutique of madness. Upon entering, my photographer, Shae McCoy, and I, were taken aback by all that Bazaar has to offer. When asked how Bazaar was born, Greg tells me that it was something that he and his co-owner, Brian Henry, “sort of stumbled into.”
“My partner and I were bored with our other jobs,” Greg explains. “We loved the neighborhood, and we’ve always been weird people.” When the building became available, Greg and his partner pounced on the opportunity to open the shop of their dreams, and Chestnut Avenue was never the same since.
The store’s stock of unique items come from a variety of sources. “We’re always going to estate sales, auctions, private collections, and some things we make ourselves.” Other items, such as the taxidermy specimens, are made by companies that specialize in that sort of work. Still, a buddy of theirs occasionally comes to the store to hold taxidermy workshops, which are held every few months. They do, however, make the wet specimens in-house, small animals that are submerged in liquid and stored in test tubes.
One of Bazaar’s most unusual items is a notorious horse sculpture, made entirely of pig intestines, which is displayed prominently atop a book- shelf. It was discovered in the attic of an old farm house in Carol County by a guy clearing out an estate. To this day, its origins remain a mystery.
“It was the only thing in the attic, staring right back at him, and it freaked him out,” Greg explains. “He was pretty eager to get rid of it, so he brought it right to us.” The horse is accompanied by a second abstract sculpture, also made of pig intestines, that was found in a box on the property. Both sculptures are held in high regard by the owners, and neither of them are for sale.
Other interesting items include a pair of funeral hair wreaths from the Victorian era, skulls from just about every animal on earth, and medical implements from the advent of modern medicine.
“A lot of what we deal in are medical antiques,” Greg says. “There are a lot of collectors who are focused on that, so we cater to them.” Among the medical antiques are a variety of quack devices, including a wine bottle that once held cocaine. “I don’t think they would sell that these days.” Greg laughs.
Spiritual and religious items are also very popular with their clientele. Among the artifacts on display include a needlepoint of Jesus, dated from 1926, that was created by nuns at the nearby St. Michael’s School. In addition, pieces gathered from fraternal organizations, such as the Freemasons and Odd Fellows, are prized by collectors. “[The Odd Fellows] would do reenactments of stories, a lot from the Bible, so they would always need costumes, masks and props, and they’ve all become ex- tremely collectible a hundred years later.”
Other than collectors, Bazaar’s clientele consists of artists and scientists, who come from all over to shop and look for inspiration. The shop also attracts families with children, and according to Greg, most customers are female “usually between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five”. The owners are also heavily involved in the community and host a variety of events to get the word out.
“Once a year, we do a show at the Walters,” Greg says. “It’s a one night only taxidermy competition, and this year we had twenty-five different artists from around the country.” In all, over nine-hundred people turned out for the event, which was held on September 7. The owners also take part in Hampdenfest, held two days later. And of course, there are the taxidermy workshops, where participants learn to skin and stuff a rat carcass—and bring it home.
Before we left, I decided to buy my girlfriend a Jackalope sculpture, made from discarded rabbit fur from the pet food industry. As of this writing, I have not presented it to her, but I think she would like this special keepsake that only Baltimore’s weird- est store can offer.
If you want to visit Bazaar, visit their website at www.bazaarbaltimore.com or visit them at 3534 Chestnut Ave