Jersey Shore taxidermy shop marks 75th year

JERSEY SHORE — At any given time of the year, it’s hunting season at Poust Taxidermy.

The large array of both domestic and foreign wildlife on display serves as an indication of the volume of work completed by owner Dana Poust and his staff.

It may be a testament to Poust’s reputation in an industry that literally preserves the celebration of hunters’ most memorable kills. The shop on Route 44 celebrates its own memorable milestone this year by marking its 75th year in business.

The shop opened as a small operation manned by Dana’s father, the late Dave Poust, in 1942. Originally affixed to the back of Poust family-owned Irving Hardware Store, it was located along South Main Street, where Santino’s Restaurant is today.

However, the shop’s origins began long before that while the elder Poust was stationed in Vermont with the Navy. There, Dave apprenticed with a taxidermist. The two became good friends.

When Poust moved back to Pennsylvania, he continued the craft, opening the business in the back of the hardware store.

It was 1965 when a teenaged Dana Poust began working at the store sweeping floors and developed his own affinity for taxidermy. He saw what was coming into the shop, how the process worked and how much his father loved the job.

Business was good on both fronts, Poust remembered. In particular, the taxidermy shop would see an average of 20 bears and 40 Pennsylvania white-tailed deer a year, he estimated.

“Dad did a lot of smaller game than (we do) today, (like) squirrels and pheasants,” he said.

Eventually, Poust took over his father’s work. Over time, projects that once were exclusively local stretched well beyond U.S. territory.

While white-tails have remained the shop’s “bread and butter,” there is a tremendous amount of work being done today on African game such as on aardvarks, zebras and lions. Most recently, he received a hippopotamus skull to recreate.

Part of what Poust believes has enabled the family business to survive through three-quarters of a century is the attention to detail that must be employed with each project.

In addition to technique, Poust researches the anatomy and characteristics of any given animal that enters his shop and the environment from which it came to most accurately and artfully “bring them back to life.”

As with any industry, taxidermy technique, process and tools have evolved over time to better replicate the animal as it was when it was alive. For instance, Poust said, tanning chemicals and higher quality material like glass eyes make the mounted animal look much more realistic.

Customer requests have changed over time too. They often ask for more than just a traditional shoulder mount. Requests for full-body mounts, pedestals, animals interacting with other animals, or floor displays have been made more frequently, which results in unique and interesting pieces of work, Poust said.

However, ask him which has been his favorite job and he can’t decide.

“I can’t think of any certain one,” he said. “There are so many of them, I can’t just pick one.”

With a strong customer base that continues to expand, the future looks bright for the 75-year-old business.

Poust, who began his journey to ownership as a teen in his family’s hardware store, continues to enjoy the work in preserving hunters’ memories.

“Sometimes it’s a challenge,” he said, “but the end results are the same.”