In case you haven't heard, The Niche Lab had its (very successful) grand opening on Saturday. My grandparents and my mom drove in from Michigan and we had close to a hundred people come through the shop in a span of around four hours.

There were so many highlights - the first of which was a very rushed ribbon cutting. Amy and I built a giant scalpel (with real blades!) out of cardboard but when it came time to actually cut it, it was freezing and I just about blew away in the wind.

Around eight o'clock I announced a taxidermy demo and was ready to beat my 1:53 record for skinning a rat, but got to the legs and realized I was missing my bone cutters. (The TSA confiscated them after I was running late for my flight, couldn't check my luggage, and had to carry it all on. Ironic that after three years, I was on my way home from my very last class and got my tool kit taken away!) Even with that hinderance, I was still under three minutes which is pretty great!

Closing out the night, I popped a bottle of Chandon with my great-grandma, who is ninety-seven years old. I asked if she'd like to make a toast, to which she said yes... And then she just yelled "MUD IN YOUR EYE!" before slamming back her glass of champagne. Basically, she's me in seventy-two years.

I'm absolutely astounded by how many people came to support me and my friends in our newest endeavor. I saw so many familiar faces and so many new ones, I was so busy greeting everyone that I didn't get a chance to take any photos other than these ones on my phone, and I take that as a sign of a really great night. I cannot wait to continue to build up this community with all kinds of classes and workshops. It's so humbling to see where I'm at now and look back to a little over three years ago, when I was teaching people one-on-one classes in my kitchen. Know that it IS possible to follow your dreams and have them come true (and then some). I love you all and I am so thankful for the opportunities this has granted me. I can't possibly name everyone - but thank you to Amy & Zarin for being the driving force behind this project, Eric for letting me drag you to a million different showings before I settled on this spot, Joslyn, Joe, and Jason for helping me hang stuff while also having J names, Angelica for helping me hang stuff while not having a J name, Randi for listening to me vent when things went wrong, my family for being supportive even though I became a taxidermist and not a doctor or lawyer or business executive, and all of the zillions of new friends I've made (or have yet to make) here in Chicago. You make me proud to be your friend.

Towards the end of the night, a girl wearing a purple dress came in with her dad (sorry I am so bad with names!) and inquired about taxidermy classes. If you are this girl, her dad, or if you happen to be reading this and know who I am talking about and how to contact them, please get in touch with me. She has a ticket to a taxidermy class waiting for her!