WATCH | At Hail, Dark Aesthetics, the philosophy behind the famed shop's stuffed two-headed calf, eclectic vinyl records, and reputation for being Nashville's "Best Place to Buy Devil Stuff" may boil down to the only four words in the "About" section of the store's website: "We buy weird stuff."
'I started collecting weird things'
J.D. Tucker told Circa he opened the shop about three years ago. "I started collecting weird things, and it got out of control," he said. "I had to either quit buying things or start selling things, so I chose to start a business."
There's no shortage of weird. Inventory includes "everything from taxidermy, skulls, vintage medical quack equipment, prosthetic limbs, black metal records, witchy clothing ... jewelry, metaphysical items [and] crystals."
Business 'took off' after grand opening party
Tucker said his first sale involved parting with a stuffed alligator with a "giant egg in its mouth" for $300. "We had a grand-opening party," he recalled. "Made more than rent on the first night. And I thought, 'Well, at least I got a month out of this.' And then it just kind of took off."
Then there was the day a Kentucky man sold him what may be the store's centerpiece: the stuffed, two-headed calf.
Tucker said the moment he saw this curiosity, "I was like, 'Yes. I will buy you.'"
'Every oddity shop needs a two-headed calf'
The story behind the two-headed calf is a major reason it may be Tucker's favorite piece. He says the calf is the real deal: born with two heads, died as a five-day-old, and stuffed soon thereafter.
"[The seller] owned a tractor sales company," Tucker said. "He had it in the showroom for display. Then, his grandson started trying to ride it all the time. ... It's one of my not-for-sale, private-collection pieces. Every oddity shop needs a two-headed calf."
Human remains like this jawbone are for sale, too, assuming they aren't already sold out.
Some 'freaked out' by human skeletons for sale
"I've definitely had several human skulls that I've sold, [and] two skeletons," Tucker said. "All ethically, and legally, obtained and sold. ... A lot of people got freaked out by that, but I just think it's interesting. They're all medically articulated, and something you'd see in a doctor's office. Really, it's not that weird, I guess."
To be fair, he added, "I don't know what's weird anymore, honestly."
Tucker also plays along with Hail's rep for being the "Best Place to Buy Devil Stuff."
Unlikely 'son of a preacher man'?
When the store received that superlative from the lifestyle website Nashville Scene, Tucker didn't quite know what to make of it, despite stocking a ram skull here and a Satanic Bible there.
"I'm also the son of a preacher man, so that's pretty interesting to share with your father, that you won the best place to buy devil's stuff," Tucker added. "He's very proud of me. Probably."
In what might be a surprise to some, Hail's popular among women and tatted-up butterfly buyers.
'80 percent of my clientele is women'
Consider Tucker among those who have been shocked by his target demographic. "Facebook tells me 80 percent of my clientele is women, and [that] seems to be pretty true," he said. "I don't understand it, but it's what it is. Some of the dudes with face tattoos and stuff come in and buy butterflies."
Tucker laments that he's dated a few customers, but tries to avoid doing so: "It's really hard when you're into witchy goth chicks, and you're the only witchy goth store in town."
Hail also sells vinyl records in the back room, in part to appeal to less adventurous souls.
They'll end up buying a Hall and Oates record or something, because it's there and it's a dollar. Why not?
"Some people are just like, 'Oh, good. They have records. I can go look at records for a while, while my friend looks at weird things,'" Tucker said.
But don't count out H&O fans. As Tucker notes, "Everybody's got some weird in them."