Skeletons in the Closet: The L.A. Coroner Store

Dec 27, 2010 | 0 comments

LA County Coronor mousepadSkeletons in the Closet is a fun and funky gift shop run by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. “We’re dying for your business!” is the shop’s slogan, and unfortunately, according to an article in the New York Times, it’s true. Business has been slow.

Body bags go for $20. Yellow crime scene tape is $6. Toe tags are normally $5, but they were sold out this month. The merchandise comes in a white plastic shopping bag that says “Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.”

The shop was once supposed to make enough money to pay for an anti-drunken-driving course for teenagers that includes a visit to the morgue.

But a recent report from county auditors shows that it has not made a profit for years and is actually subsidized by the very program it was meant to finance.

So the shop needs county money to order more of the “undertaker” boxer shorts and the business-card holders shaped like skulls.

The store was created almost by accident nearly 20 years ago by a secretary who noticed how popular mugs and T-shirts with the coroner’s logo were at the forensic conferences the department held each year. So she began ordering more and selling them from her desk. Eventually, there was enough business that the merchandise moved to a small closet (the name came not long after that).

Now the shop fills a small room just off the department’s only public entrance. A sign reminds visitors of the real purpose of a coroner, pleading with potentially overeager shoppers to “Please be considerate of our families here on business.”

How can you resist a barbecue apron that reads “L.A. County Coroner Has (heart shape)” with pockets labeled “spare ribs” and “spare hands” and beach towels with outline images of bodies on the ground? Support Skeletons in the Closet!

A Good Goodbye