Late one San Francisco winter, two landscape designers dreamed big. Inspired by a fascination with the natural world, and driven by a desire to create something unlike anything they had ever seen before, they opened the doors of Paxton Gate for the first time in December of 1992. In our original incarnation, tucked away from the beaten path in an alley off of Market Street, Paxton Gate was 300 square feet of eccentric gardening merchandise and featured curiosities inspired by the natural world. Soon after our inception, a predilection for the bizarre side of nature became apparent, and oddities such as rare insects and taxidermy began to creep onto the scene. But 6-foot-high office ceilings and crawl space storage rooms couldn’t last forever: our growth necessitated a big move.
After seven years, Paxton Gate relocated to our current, larger space on Valencia Street in the Mission District. The move more than quadrupled the size of our previous retail location, allowing us to branch out into new areas including furniture, vintage and antique architectural elements, jewelry, personal goods, and a growing selection of books and home décor items. The new location also afforded our design-build branch the opportunity to show off their skills in our backyard garden space, where they created a breathtaking refuge from the hustle and bustle of the busy neighborhood streets. All the while, we’ve remained true to our vision: treasures and oddities inspired by the garden and natural sciences.
Sean Quigley, one of our original founders, now owns Paxton Gate. Quigley, who oversees the retail operations and heads the Design/Build arm, has worked and lived in San Francisco's Mission District since the early 1990's. Through Paxton Gate, he has supported many local organizations including the San Francisco Women's Building, the Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco Women Against Rape, Caral, Swing for Choice, The National AIDS Memorial Grove, The Randal Museum Friends, The San Francisco Naturalists Society, and more. He is an avid collector of Bromeliads, which he grows in his Mission garden.
Based on the success of Paxton Gate, we opened two additional stores in recent years. Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids debuted in 2008, and features a nostalgic mix of toys and games evoking the pre-digital era for children and children-at-heart. In 2010, two close friends of Sean Quigley and huge fans of Paxton Gate, Andy and Susan Brown, expanded the company by opening their own licensed Paxton Gate store in Portland, Oregon, closely linked with the SF stores.
From big dream to reality, we at Paxton Gate are thrilled to have found a curious community that loves to learn, share, and grow with us. We hope you’ll join us and discover what’s around the next corner.
Here at Paxton Gate, we have a deep fascination and respect for the natural world. Part of our philosophy is ensuring that our product offering is ethically sourced.
Taxidermy, along with animal skulls and skeletons are among the many items that our customers purchase online and in the stores. We want you to know that we go out of our way to source items that have either died of natural causes or were otherwise trapped and euthanized in humane ways as part of animal care and control programs intended to manage wildlife populations. In some cases, individual animals are collected and euthanized by licensed nuisance trappers. Additionally, all of the baby livestock (deer, boars, ostrich, etc.) that we occasionally carry were stillborn or died shortly after birth of natural causes. Most of the larger and game items are vintage pieces from many years ago, and therefore sourcing is difficult to confirm. Others come from areas where certain animals are much more common than they are here, and licensed hunters are required to meet legal quotas as part of a system of wildlife management. We do not support the trade of poached or endangered animals nor cruel ranching practices.
Insects are often collected in their native habitats by people indigenous to the same locale. This regulated practice gives people the means to make an income off the surrounding habitat by keeping it in its natural state, and even in some cases reforesting with native host plants intended for particular species. In the end the effect on insect populations is positive as opposed to the alternative—loss of habitat due to farming, development, and pesticides. Our insects are often from South-East Asia but also endemic to the Americas, Africa, Madagascar, and other regions of the world. Many of the larger and bird-wing butterflies are ranched by conservationists who release about 50% of what they raise and sell the remainder to fund their organizations thereby helping to replenish threatened species in the wild.
Occasionally questions arise as to the ethical nature of some of the items we carry that we have not answered here or elsewhere on the site. If you require additional information, or if you have information you think may be valuable to us, please contact us and we will do our best to answer your question or consider your thoughts.