You may not see the tiny brick building as you drive past Martinez Brothers Taxidermy shop, but walk inside and you will feel the eyes staring at you from every direction.
Mounted deer heads with glassy eyes alert to every move in the shop
If you’re there on the right day, you may see a once-beloved Pomeranian or a grizzly bear-skin rug stretched across a table.
Alex Martinez Jr. and brother P.J. Martinez work in the back skinning animal bodies and tanning the hides. The brothers create original paper-mache manikins like their father used to make when he ran the shop. They say it is an art that is too time-consuming for most taxidermists.
“In the old days, your pride and joy was you did this, you made this. It was your product. We don’t have that anymore,” Alejandro Martinez says.
“In a nutshell, taxidermy has become simplified,” Alex Martinez Jr. says, referring to kits enthusiasts can purchase online instead of doing it the traditional way.
The Martinez brothers want to continue their father’s tradition by using techniques that he learned as an apprentice at the age of 15. Martinez Sr. worked for Paschall's Taxidermy until he was able to purchase the building and start his own business.
He says he didn’t push his children to follow in his footsteps.
“My way of thinking was for them to get an education and to be able to succeed in this American culture the way it is now, and you have to be able to blend in or be a part of to be able to succeed,” Martinez Sr. says.
Martinez Jr. says he knew after graduating high school that he wanted to continue the family business.
“That tradition that my father started when I was a kid is a tradition that I want to continue with my children,” he says.
The taxidermy shop has remained on the corner of South Lamar Boulevard and Oltorf Street despite being surrounded by new businesses coming in. Most of the mom and pop shops are closing.
The elder Martinez says they are able to remain there because he purchased the property long ago.
“This (the property) is something that I was able to acquire and to keep. I look at it as a tool, really. A place to be able to work and to make my livelihood. You get attached to that. It becomes a part of you,” Martinez Sr. says.
Over the past year, Martinez Jr. has started a new company called ATX Native, a company specializing in advertisements on exterior building walls. He hopes to generate more income for the taxidermy shop. The mural that once read “Will you marry me?” with the option to check off “Yes,” “No,” or “Hasta la vista, baby” is now an advertisement for another local business called Uptown Cheapskate. The new business will enable them to remain on the highly visible, popular corner.
Martinez Jr. feels a responsibility to keep the doors open.
“The obligation to continue my dad’s legacy and presence, so one day when he is gone he won’t completely be gone. Part of him will remain here with the taxidermy.” Martinez Jr. says.
Martinez Brothers Taxidermy plans to open a second location in July in Lockhart. The brothers will travel back and forth to run both locations.
So, for now, the glass eyes at Martinez Brothers are looking to a bright future.