Jason Wohl of Robertsville said he was passing by Pacific on Interstate 44 when he saw a large crowd Friday afternoon around an array of painted animals near the eastbound exit ramp and decided to see what was going on.
Wohl and his 3-year-old son Gaven happened upon what was arguably the largest grand opening of a Pacific business in recent memory.
Carrie and Gary Null opened Null and Crossbones at 2165 W. Osage in August. The couple describes their 22,000-square-foot retail establishment as “dreadful collectibles.”
Outside the store are hundreds of imported painted animals on the grounds that are encircled by the I-44 exit ramp — some much larger than life and painted in bold colors not natural to the animals they depict. Figures range in size from 12-inch-high chickens to 12-foot-high giraffes, painted in a patchwork of colors.
Gaven ignored the rows of huge painted animals, opting for three small metal trucks painted to look like antique toys.
Jeff and Shelley Nieder of Union also pulled into the driveway already lined with vehicles as they approached to see what the crowd was all about.
“The giraffes are the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Darlene Wright, who drove from High Ridge for the event after learning about it on Facebook. Her husband Morris is a friend of owner Gary Null’s uncle and they were excited to see the display, but had not seen Null since he was a boy.
“I could pick him out as soon as I saw him,” Wright said. “I just wanted to see what it was all about.”
The entire property took on the atmosphere of a country fair. Cars filled the grassy area along West Osage and the driveway that leads up to the interior showroom.
A rock band set up on a portable stage beside the upper approach. Food trucks lined the area adjacent to the off ramp and tables were positioned so patrons could sit and eat.
On the ground near the entrance, statues were positioned in groups of skeletons, concrete dragons and gargoyles. There were painted Yetis that ranged in size from 1-foot-high to life-size.
A life-size elephant, tri-color dinosaur and 8-foot-tall cartoon-style beagle, aka Snoopy, flanked the driveway leading up to the entrance.
Approximately 200 people milled about the grounds and inside the showroom waiting for the ribbon cutting Sunday, Oct. 29, which was hosted by the Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce.
Visitors came from St. Peters, Troy, Valley Park, High Ridge, Byrnesville, Catawissa, Robertsville and Pacific.
Bill Keylon, who moved to Pacific a month ago, said he heard about the event on the radio and was interested in the metal signs they offered. Seeing the collection of large metal signs attached to the fence that aligns the I-44 exit ramp that borders the outdoor display, he was not disappointed.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
Jeff Smith of Valley Park is a fan of the band Super Jam. When he heard they would play for the event he made the trip.
Jill Szepanski of St. Peters and Debbie Iverson of Troy also came to hear the band, but were enthralled by the scope of the merchandise on the interior showroom.
“I don’t know how you would describe everything they have here,” Iverson said.