Step inside the magical world of Fae’s Cabinet: An inclusive shop of eccentricities in The 05

On the storefront window of Fae’s Cabinet in Fort Wayne, there’s a sticker with rainbow-colored letters.

It reads: “Love your neighbor who doesn’t look like you, think like you, love like you, speak like you, pray like you, vote like you. Love your neighbor, no exceptions.”

In many ways, this simple message ushers you into the welcoming, safe atmosphere you’ll experience inside the shop off Crescent Avenue.

Fae's Cabinet markets the work of more than 114 vendors from Fort Wayne to Singapore.

Through the doors, past the displays of t-shirts, crystals, creatures, and art in many forms, you’ll find Travis Tribolet-Ward behind the counter, next to a cage of squawking birds.

“There’s a very earthy vibe here,” Tribolet-Ward says. “I hate to say it’s ‘witchy,’ but somebody the other day described us as ‘the gay witch shop,’ and I was like… ‘I’m OK with that,’” he says, laughing. 

Birds greet guests at the Fae's Cabinet checkout counter.

But Fae’s Cabinet is more than a shop where you can purchase eccentric goods or get your tarot cards read. More than anything, it’s part of a movement creating safe, nontraditional spaces in Fort Wayne, where people are accepted as they are and invited to explore their interests in crafts, concoctions, and subject matter of many kinds—even exotic animals, both living and taxidermized.

Fae's Cabinet features exotic animals both living and taxidermized.

In a back room of the shop, Tribolet-Ward and his husband/Co-Owner, Byron, breed exotic reptiles. They keep an English Angora rabbit as a store pet, and they recently rescued a bird named Cashmere. Travis Tribolet-Ward is the Co-Owner of Fae's Cabinet.

Tribolet-Ward has a background in insect taxidermy and the culinary arts. Before opening Fae’s Cabinet, he owned a bakery in his hometown Van Wert, Ohio, where he and Byron still live and commute. Byron works full-time as a FedEx Manager in Fort Wayne, while Tribolet-Ward manages the shop, which sells some of his original insect taxidermy work.

He adopted the craft as a gay teen in Van Wert.

“My biology teacher in high school took me under her wing, partly because I was bullied a lot in high school for being gay,” Tribolet-Ward says. “She taught me how to do insect taxidermy and how to preserve things so they would last. Practicing insect taxidermy was one of those ‘safe realms’ for me, where I could kind of zone into my art and do what I wanted to do.”

Tribolet-Ward has been practicing insect taxidermy since he was a teen.

As Tribolet-Ward developed his craft, he started purchasing insects from sanctuaries all over the world (noting that all of Fae’s Cabinet’s creatures today are ethically sourced, not collected from the wild). His passion for taxidermy led him and Byron to attend art shows across the U.S. to market his work and meet other makers of oddities and unique media.

Fae's Cabinet works with artists from around the world.

It was these connections to artists near and far that inspired them to open Fae’s Cabinet in Fort Wayne, so they could have easy access to some of their favorite work.

In 2017, they opened Fae’s Cabinet’s first location on W. Coliseum Blvd. as a “hole-in-the-wall” art co-op for about 20 of their friends. Since then, the venture has grown into its third (and largest) iteration at 3210 Crescent Ave., which houses the work of more than 114 vendors from Fort Wayne to Singapore in a sprawling 5,400-square-feet.

Fae's Cabinet has a new 5,400-square-foot space.

Wander the displays at Fae’s Cabinet, and you’ll find entire sections devoted to products like tribal masks, crystals, dried herbs, wood crafts, weavings, and vegan pastries. The breadth and depth of inventory has even caught the attention of Disney animators who are inspired by the shop's mission and atmosphere.

“It's just really neat to see all the random people who have taken notice of what we’re doing in Fort Wayne,” Tribolet-Ward says. “We thought this was just going to be a little hole-in-the-wall shop for us and our friends to sell stuff. Now, it's turned into this insane, cool menagerie of awesomeness.”

All of the animals taxidermized at Fae's Cabinet are ethically sourced.

Since expanding into its new location in March, Fae’s Cabinet has been getting more foot traffic in The 05, too, adding to the area’s eclectic culture of local businesses.

“The North Anthony Corridor is very up-and-coming,” Tribolet-Ward says. “It’s a cool, trendy place where a lot of people are walking from nearby colleges and coffee shops like Firefly. We love this little spot.”

Crystals are a popular item at Fae's Cabinet.

Along with the shop’s products, another aspect Tribolet-Ward loves about Fae’s Cabinet is its clientele.

“I mean, you have the grandmas who come in, and then you have the young, raver kids, and they’re all here, shopping and co-existing together, which is super cool to see,” he says.

Makers of many kinds sell their crafts at Fae's Cabinet.

His hope for Fort Wayne’s future is that these groups, and others, continue to learn from one another and to comfortably co-exist as neighbors.

“The biggest thing for us is just acceptance and tolerance—and we’ve seen that growing in Fort Wayne with movements like Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter,” Tribolet-Ward says “We just want to see the creation of more accepting spaces, places like Artlink downtown, where people can be themselves, express themselves, and not feel like they’re hiding in their closets anymore. We want to help people feel equal and accepted.”

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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