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This ‘elder goth’ is keeping South Street weird with his new store, The DreamEerie

“We’re kind of like your weird goth grandmother’s house."

Daryll Jones inside of his store, The DreamEerie, on the 600 block of South Street.
Daryll Jones inside of his store, The DreamEerie, on the 600 block of South Street.Read moreAlejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer

Meet Daryll Jones, owner of The DreamEerie, “a shop for goths and other spooky nerds,” on South Street.

• Interactive display: “We have a place where people can step inside and take pictures in a coffin.”

• Dark humor: “Goths live in sarcasm.”

When Daryll Jones took the bus to Philly goth shows in the ‘90s, he didn’t put on his makeup until he got to the club, and he removed it before he left for the night.

“My life would have been in danger if I went to the club in that state,” Jones, 50, of South Philly, said. “Us old goths dealt with a time when we got bullied, and when I say bullied, you would literally have to fight people.”

What Jones loved about the goth scene, aside from the music, was exactly what the bullies feared: It was a community “very accepting of weird and unusual people,” long before accepting weird and unusual people was considered cool.

Jones remained deeply entrenched in the scene for nearly a decade, before turning his attention in 2001 to focus on his marriage, his son, and his business, Atomic City Comics, on South Street.

“I wanted to have my American dream of having a family and a business so I gave up on distractions,” Jones said.

But when Jess Cyphers — a friend Jones met through a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game at his comic book store — suggested he check out a goth show in 2019, Jones fell right back in.

“I was like ‘Oh my God why did I ever leave this?’” he said. “It made me so happy I was like ‘I am never leaving again.’”

Jones isn’t just back in the goth scene, he’s investing in it. In May, he opened The DreamEerie, “a shop for goths and other spooky nerds,” across from his comic book store on the 600 block of South Street, and brought Cyphers on as manager.

The store specializes in furniture and home goods with a dark aesthetic. There’s a coffin coffee table and coffin book shelves; blankets with themes like “Witches Going to Their Sabbath”; taxidermy bugs and animals; and weapons the disenfranchised used to rise up against oppressors, like cleavers and scythes. Need a Dracula throw pillow or a portrait of a Victorian woman that is probably totally haunted? Then The DreamEerie has got you covered.

“We’re kind of like your weird goth grandmother’s house,” Cyphers said.

As members of what they jokingly refer to as “the League of Elder Goths,” Jones and Cyphers are doing their part to keep alive the culture of the South Street they fell in love with in the ‘90s.

“Back then there were not just like three or four stores like this, there were like 20 of them,” Cyphers said. “And you would just like wander into these weird doorways and it would smell weird and it’d be dark and you never knew what you’re gonna find.”

With so much culture focused online these days, including goth, Jones hopes The DreamEerie — which has posters and fliers about upcoming shows and hosts events with local DJs — will be a place where people meet in person again.

“In the ‘90s, if you wanted to do something you had to put your clothes on, get out, walk out of your house, and go down where people were hanging out. Now, everything’s on the phone,” Jones said. “We’re hoping to be a place where people can come and find out what’s going on.”

For Jones, whose favorite bands include the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Christian Death, Clan of Xymox, and Selofan, goth has always been about the music.

Growing up in a strict family in Mount Airy, Jones liked that goth was weird, spooky, and dark — a musical rebellion against expected norms. Interested in thrash metal he heard on MTV, Jones went out to industrial clubs and to South Street, where he was introduced to goth music and people in the scene.

Back then, other nightlife areas of Philly hadn’t been developed, and South Street was the “one lighted place” where everyone hung out at night, Jones said. The street was so packed with people, you couldn’t walk from one end to the other, he said.

“There was a bunch of different people intermingling with each other and that’s where I met people my age who were sort of outcasts,” Jones said.

He hung out at stores like Zipperhead and Armed & Dangerous, which, while not goth, carried weird items goths loved. Jones always felt guilty going into Armed & Dangerous because he couldn’t afford anything, and he knew the owner needed business.

“When he closed [in 2017], I was really depressed because I knew a store like that would never come back,” Jones said.

But instead of simply bemoaning the void, Jones decided to fill it. With Cyphers’ knowledge of antiques and Jones’ business acumen, they developed a plan for the store.

They get many of their items from auctions and online and then collaborate with local artists who rehab lamps, reupholster furniture, and taxidermy bugs, to prepare the goods for retail.

“And if we can’t find someone, basically we’ll find someone who’s willing to learn and say ‘Do the best you can,’” Jones said.

Cyphers used to think goth culture would die out with his generation, but over the last few years, he and Jones have seen a rise in its popularity in the mainstream, like Tim Burton’s recent Netflix series, Wednesday, which came out while they were building the store.

Now, when they go to shows as members of the League of Elder Goths, they try to make young goths they see feel welcome.

“We say ‘This is my name, we know you don’t want to hang out with all these old people, but we’re here if you need us,’” Jones said.

And The DreamEerie is now here for goths — and other spooky nerds — too.

“I don’t expect to become rich off of the store. It’s a labor of love,” Jones said. “I love the community and I love the content.”

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