Obscura Antiques & Oddities co-owner Mike Zohn discovered antiques one day while learning how to drive, getting lost and coming across an antique store housed in an old barn. He was hooked, and he started to buy — and learn about — all sorts of neat (and odd) things, including items related to circuses, sideshows, taxidermy and natural history. But he didn’t just make purchases for his own collection; Mike supplemented his salary as a photo researcher and editor by buying items he knew he could resell at a profit … funds he then used to buy things he really wanted. Before long, Mike found himself with so much stuff, he was going to have to either seek help for his hoarding addiction or open a shop.
The idea of opening a shop won out when Mike’s department at the stock-photo company where he worked was dissolved, and it seemed to make sense to “do the antique thing until [he] found a new job.” That was in 1997, and he’s been at it since then.
In order to find his Obscura inventory, Mike wakes up at the crack of dawn, driving hours in the dark in order to attend flea markets, auctions, antique shows, estate sales and garage sales. Even when on vacation, he’s always looking for that place that just might have something good to buy. As for his typical customer, there’s no such thing; they run the gamut from the heavily pierced and tattooed, to celebrities like Danny Elfman, to the most professional white-collar executives. What they do have in common, according to Mike, is an appreciation of the unusual and odd.
In his spare time, Mike gives lectures on 19th century taxidermy automata.