By Nick Michon
RICHMOND, Va. – Death has paid Oregon Hill a visit. Gone are the frilly flowers that once graced the now defunct Bunnyhop Bike Shop on the corner of Albemarle in exchange for the towering scythe wielded by the Reaper himself. The entire building has transformed to black, and Justin Torone and Alaina Gearhart are to blame.
While the new mural in progress by Sure Hand Signs may paint a grim scene, Torone and Gearhart’s business Rest In Pieces is taking on a newfound life of its own. The couple entered the world of oddities through Gearhart’s preexisting love for strange artifacts like skulls and preserved creatures.
“I started buying them for her as gifts and just became fascinated with everything. It was a natural expansion for sure,” Torone said.
Torone and Gearhart decided to take their oddities sales to the next step after seeing the success with their initial Etsy webstore that complemented their presence in vending local tattoo festivals and markets in Richmond.
“I’ve always been kind of obsessed with death. I used to bury the squirrels that fell out of the trees or birds that hit a window in this little fort in the woods behind my house as a kid,” Gearhart said.
Torone assures this was no overnight venture. Vague and extensive Virginia game laws and regulations make it illegal to sell any animal that is native to Virginia, bringing an uphill battle for the couple since day one. With the larger location and increased confidence in their knowledge of Virginia’s laws, the couple is thrilled to branch out with further offerings.
“We’re finally at the point where we don’t need to rely so heavily on animal parts. I’m super excited to expand and not worry about if I’m going to jail for selling something I didn’t know was against the law,” Gearhart said.
Torone, 27, and Gearhart, 22, went through years of schooling before switching paths to open Rest In Pieces. Gearhart was in the salon industry after completing cosmetology school and became frustrated in trying to become a hairstylist. Torone dropped out after three years of college in his past efforts to become a teacher.
“It just wasn’t for me, you don’t have to go to college to live a happy, successful life. We’re not getting rich off this, but I get to wake up and do something I enjoy every single day and I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” Torone said.
When Torone and Gearhart aren’t curating their abnormal store stock, they are likely deep in the grooves of ‘80s goth-styled synthwave. They always keep artists like Depeche Mode, Christian Death, and TRUST on in the shop, and Gearhart encourages customers to follow their playlist on Spotify if they like what they hear during their visit.
Torone has played guitar in and out of punk and hardcore bands since the age of 15, and he is excited to have the new storefront right behind Vinyl Conflict, the only other retail space in Oregon Hill, which strictly serves as Richmond’s exclusive record shop for all things punk and hardcore.
As the gothic art on the side of the building suggests, Torone says to expect a much darker and creepier aesthetic than their current location, with a few additional surprises they have been working on diligently.
“It’s cool to be able to add something new to the city. Where else are you gonna go in Richmond when you need to buy a giraffe skull?”