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Salida’s Little Shop of Horrors

Article by Jennifer Dempsey

Artists – June 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

WALKING INTO 132 West First Street in Salida is like walking into the Little Shop of Horrors. Or maybe the prop room at Disneyland. It definitely could be Who-ville.

“We like to think of ourselves as Dr. Suess gone bad,” said Pat Landreth who, with partner Suzanne Montano, is the creative genius behind Bungled Jungle.

Packed with hilarious, eccentric creatures and monsters, the downtown Salida store would make the Grinch feel right at home. Hanging from the ceiling a green, one-eyed flying creature smiles with a buck tooth. Jutting from the wall, a jagged-toothed, purple-headed dragon head invites you to peer in the mirror in his open mouth. In the middle of the room stands a busty, four-foot, lounge-lizard mermaid, dressed in gold glitter, microphone in hand.

Pat Landreth, Suzanne Montano, and some of their creations.
Pat Landreth, Suzanne Montano, and some of their creations.

“We have talked to Universal Studios,” Landreth said, “but they want you to do what they want you to do. We make what we want to make. We seldom do custom orders. Besides, we’re very unreliable and unstable people.”

For more than 20 years the creatures from Bungled Jungle have made their way into homes, businesses, and galleries across the United States, and in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

“We’ve been going to Austin, Texas, for 14 years,” Landreth said. “We’re part of the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ crowd. It’s a wonderful city for us because it’s employed.”

Originally from Washington and Texas, Landreth and Montano had regular day jobs before becoming full-time monster-makers.

“I loved making creatures as a kid, but when I had to become a responsible adult I became a nuclear physicist … and I taught psychology,” Landreth said. Montano is a former geologist.

“I met Suzanne when the bottom dropped out of the geology market because of the oil crisis and her career was on temporary hold,” he said. “We like this better, it’s much more fun.” Landreth and Montano use up to 13 different materials to make their creatures, including plastic, rubber, metal, plaster and clay.

“We use almost anything we find loose lying around the shop,” he said. “If you walk slowly through the shop you might be incorporated. The process is very similar to papier mache in the layering, but our creations are much tougher. They can fall off the wall and not get hurt, except for maybe losing a tooth. But we offer free dental coverage.”

All of their creations are one-of-a-kind and developed from their own imagination. Most of the construction is done at their home in Howard, with final touches done at the shop.

“We love it so much here,” he said. “We can get as silly as we want. Art shows are very juried and you have to stay within their guidelines. Here we can be just as crazy as we want to be and experiment with different materials. We’re not running low on ideas. The more creatures I do the more ideas I have. We’re never going to have enough time to do them all.”

FOUR YEARS AGO, Landreth and Montano were living in a two-story school bus on a farm outside of Fort Collins, when friends suggested they check out Salida.

“We fell in love with the place,” he said. “We have found the place we want to live for the rest of our lives. We love hiking and developing new ideas and teasing the public with them. We have the perfect lifestyle. We are the proverbial starving artists, always trying to make ends meet, but I wouldn’t trade it. Our customers are always laughing.”

This summer Bungled Jungle will be featured at the Telluride Blue Grass Festival from June 18 – 21 and at the Salida Artwalk June 26, 27 and 28.

Bungled Jungle creations can be seen at For store hours call 719-539-3759 or email

“We come in almost every day and we will open up for anybody,” Landreth said. “We’re not proud.”

Jennifer Dempsey is a free-lance writer and director of the Salida Circus.