As soon as I arrived at Petunia and Loomis, the new shop of the odd and macabre in Spokane’s Paulsen Center, the sunshine dimmed like dying eyes, the clouds gathered like mourners, and raindrops danced along the gritty sidewalk, as someone wronged might dance on another’s grave. I knew I was in the right place.

Sitting in the store’s window, peering out at me, were a trio of ghoulish after-lifers, including Frankenstein’s monster, whom I’m told will sometimes talk to pedestrians whose minds are open to it.

Photo: Dan Roberts
Photo: Dan Roberts

Me? I’m here to speak with the owner of Petunia and Loomis. She goes by the name Sam, as in Samantha Stevens from Bewitched, or perhaps Son of Sam, the notorious serial killer. It’s too soon to tell. All I know is I was dropping in unexpectedly and yet she seemed to be expecting me. Perhaps the shop’s house Tarot reader told her I was coming.

Tarot in the Night

Sam: He did a reading on me last night. And it was almost instantaneously that something happened, that he said was going to happen.

 Dan: Do you want to share what it was?

 Sam: I think that the person it happened to would not be very happy.

Dan: Oh, I see. Well, it's not like you cast a spell. It's not like you caused it to happen. You just knew it was going to happen.

Sam: It was very funny that it did happen.

Keeping Halloween Alive, 3 6 5

Dan: You must love Halloween.

Sam: I like it because my mom liked Halloween. She passed in 2020. But she always had collections. So the monsters in the window over there, the Frankenstein stuff, she built when I was a kid. So they're PVC pipe and pillows. And she made the paintings all around the shop, like Peter Pan… And those space girls. And so it's basically a little homage to her. When she passed, I inherited all of her Halloween stuff.

Dan: What was your mom's name?

Sam: Diane Merrill.

Two Headed Skeletons are Better Than One

Dan: So why name the shop Petunia and Loomis?

Sam: I used to work at Spirit Halloween, for a really long time. And me and a co-worker got a two-headed skeleton once. And I named one Petunia, and she named one Loomis, and then years later, I just thought it was a really great name. And so when we opened, that's what I decided to call it. Because it sounds macabre. It sounds very creepily ominous for some reason.

Misery Lovers Love Company

Dan: And what's the response been like from Spokane?

Sam: Amazing. Absolutely incredible. There's a lot of weirdos out there. It's nice that they're attracted to (the same things I am). I've lived here my whole life, we never had anything like this.

Dan: I would think it would be a hot-spot for tourists.

Sam: Yes, we have had a lot of people that found us online, on Tik Tok, or YouTube, and then they'll come here. We have a lot of people come from Richland. Last week, we had people from New York, LA. A lot of the hotels are starting to tell people that we're here. But it's funny, because people are like, "Oh, we thought it was an antique store." A little bit, but not like any other antique store. And then, I would say like 20% of that is new stuff.

A Corpse is a Corpse, Of Course, Of Course

It’s easy to get the feeling you’re being watched at Petunia and Loomis, every wall looks like a room from Scooby Doo, in which someone might be listening behind the paintings and faded photographs.

Even the taxidermy wildlife look as if they could spring to life, including the squirrel riding in a tiny Cinderella carriage.

Sam: All of our taxidermy is real. All of our bones are real. All of our hides are real.

Dan: Are there are a lot of taxidermists still around?

Sam: No, not not locally. A lot of our stuff comes from Africa or like, more bizarre stuff. Like that Bobcat up there, who doesn't have teeth. Our squirrel, dressed to Cinderella.

The Price of Fame...ous Monsters

Photo: Dan Roberts
Photo: Dan Roberts

Dan: Now is everything in the store for sale? Or is some of it more of a museum?

Sam: I would say maybe 2% is not for sale. I'm not selling my mom's stuff. Other than that…

Dan: How much for this Creature from the Black Lagoon? It's life sized.

Sam: And it was custom made, by somebody in LA, during COVID. And they actually signed the bottom of it.

Dan: Yeah, so I'm gonna’ take a wild guess… It's like two grand?

Sam: $3,500.00. I had to travel to get it. And I had to fix some of it, because the previous owner loved it, but wasn't gentle with it.

Dan: Did he try to put it in his pool or something?

Sam: No, it was not that. He was a very sweet man. His wife bought it for him. He was very in love. And then she passed, and he didn't want to keep stuff anymore. And so he wanted it to go somewhere, but he had taken it apart.

Dearly Departing Words

Dan: What is the thing that customers talk about most when they come in here?

Sam: I don't really know if there's anything specific that people come in and talk about. The Creature (from the Black Lagoon) is really popular. And they really like the Big Bertha sign, which I can't part with quite yet. But it really just depends.

Dan: And what's your slogan outside? Year ‘round Creeptown?

Sam: Yeah.

Dan: I love that.

Sam:  Yeah, we're just like this all the time.

Petunia and Loomis is located at 421 West Riverside Avenue. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 7pm. Sundays 11am to 5.

And now, if you dare, scroll down and take a look at some of what you'll encounter at Petunia and Loomis.

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