Updated: Oct 3, 2022
There’s a modest storefront in East Nashville recognizable only by its logo, rendered in emphatic monochrome.
It’s half-past noon, and for a few hours, this shop is open for business.
Inside, a trio of young teenagers are huddled around a tall, neatly organized shelf displaying a variety of jarred animal fetuses and the preserved remains of a few sea creatures.
“Cool,” one of them says.
“Not cool; creepy,” comes a playful reply.
They’re marveling at the “wet specimens” section, inconspicuously resting between a collection of occult literature and a looming glass case filled with skulls — most of which aren’t human.
The teens just hurried over from the collection of vintage medical equipment, simply signaled by a poster reading “FREAK SHOW,” and soon they’ll circle around to a wall lined with spirit boards and art prints celebrating 1980s horror flicks.
There’s only one place they could be: Hail.
The walls are lined with ensembles that are as playful as they are bizarre.
Hail is a part-resale boutique, part-art gallery with an affinity for the macabre. The store boasts an eclectic selection of antiques, taxidermy and art, much of it supplied by locals.
The bulk of the store’s inventory is front and center, as well as a robe-clad skeleton sporting vintage sunglasses and what seems to be a permanent grin. To the skeleton’s left, a stuffed raccoon for sale is dressed in a diminutive tweed outfit, playing golf with a tiny club. Behind them both, a taxidermied baboon has its arms stretched over an electric piano.
“If you can make dead stuff cute, everyone’ll love it,” said Gabrielle LaMoy, one of Hail’s few employees.
“We have two different people that do taxidermy, but the majority of it’s just, like, really old vintage stuff,” she explained. “We’ve been here for six years, so a lot of times we’ll just get walk-ins for stuff. People know that we buy strange things.”
That reputation is well-earned and displayed with morbid opulence — every wall in the boutique flaunts stuffed heads and limbs, whether from recent roadkill or a vintage piece from the 1960s.
The store’s three main rooms overflow with goods, though, and it’s more than expired wildlife. There’s a robust record collection, shelves of esoteric writings, including those of renowned occultist Aleister Crowley, and a selection of clothing items branded with jack-o-lanterns and images of cult horror icon Nosferatu.
At Hail, nothing is out of place. Strangeness reigns.
LaMoy sits behind the counter for the time being. She more or less has run the shop the last few years. She’ll spend the next few hours greeting customers with an honest smile, informing them about the store’s holiday events and spinning vinyl records on a turntable behind her, painting the ambience with a fittingly varied score.
Containing everything from summery, washed-out indie rock to punishing thrash metal and boom-bap hip hop, Hail’s kaleidoscopic playlist only has one common thread: you won’t find any of these songs in the Top 40.
Customers are currently being treated to the brooding doom metal of Windhand’s “Grief’s Infernal Flower.”
Most of what the store contains is for sale, with the exception of a few elaborate taxidermy dioramas, as well as the wooden cutout with a drawing of a cat plastered to its face.
That would be Binks, the founder’s pet.
If not LaMoy, you’ll usually find that founder, JD Tucker, enthusiastically waiting behind the counter to field questions and show guests around. He started Hail out of necessity — after years of collecting oddities and macabre trinkets, he found a way to keep his personal inventory light while also sharing his appreciation for the weird with Nashville’s more curious denizens.
There isn’t a common thread among Hail’s customers, though, as the shop’s off-beat appeal casts a wide net. From the aforementioned curious children to a pair of seniors taking hesitant steps past the spirit boards, Hail’s audience reflects the store’s extensive reach — even if the store’s obsidian sense of humor earns nervous laughter as much as it earns genuine smiles.
“It’s different,” one older man reticently said about the store. He’s here with his wife, who’s pacing back and forth, staring wide-eyed at the wet specimens.
“I guess they have a lot of neat stuff, but would you display it?”
But not long after they leave, another couple walks in. Nicole Walker and her significant other came to Hail after looking online for “the weirdest things to do in Nashville.”
They weren’t disappointed, Walker said.
“In the world of oddities, I feel like it’s diverse,” she said. “There’s a little bit of everything.”
That diversity makes itself clear in how they move through the shop; their first instinct is to investigate the old medical equipment before they compare ideas about a crystal ball in the opposite end of the store. They leave with a few books, including a collection of essays called “Satan Speaks!”
At first, Hail might seem unassuming. The building is shrouded in dark colors behind a small parking lot, where a few cars might be seen filtering in and out. But inside, Hail is a haven for the unsavory and the subversive.
The store website’s “About” section, though only one line of text, gives you every detail you need.
“We buy weird stuff.”