Life is funny. In 1999, I decided to go on vacation. As I worked for an insectary, the only time I could travel was during the winter months. I love cold weather so that was no hardship, but my partner hates winter so we needed to pick a warm climate. Not wanting to go to the beach, we choose to go out West. Our destination was Arizona, flying into Tucson, traveling around the north rim, and return to Phoenix.
Landing in Tucson, we learned that the world’s largest gem and mineral show was held there each year. Who knew? I have always been a lover of stones and our plans were flexible, so we decided to stay to check it out. Little did we know at the time, but we lucked out when we found a cheap hotel room for two nights. Wholesale and retail vendors from all continents (minus Antartica) come to Tucson each year. Hotel rooms in entire town had been sold out months in advance!
We only explored a small portion of the shows, and I was overwhelmed with the variety and scope of merchandise, with all the sights during those few days. I also met someone who would be very influential – one of my life’s touchstones, so to speak. After a few retail purchases, we continued on our trip. As we traveled, I kept thinking about the adventure in Tucson. During this trip, I had powerful spiritual experiences traveling through Hopi and Navajo lands. There was a sense that a lot of change was coming.
From months after this vacation, the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Shows were never far from my mind. How cool would it be to sell rocks and minerals in Gainesville? How cool would it be if I could bring the sights and stones from Tucson to my hometown? Having decided to start a business, how would I get material to sell?
After a few large purchases from an internet market, the seller asked what was I going to do with this material. As I shared my dream, he echoed my joy and said he would like to help me get started. Brander gave me a name and asked me to keep it secret. How was I to know that it was someone halfway across the globe?
Trusting his guidance, I contacted this wholesaler, placed an order, and wired monies internationally. I cannot stress enough the trust it took to send the money before receiving the merchandise. Adding to my anxiety, it took months to receive the products as sea freight was the most economical (and slowest) shipping method. This transaction would be the start of a decades-long friendship.
Two years later, the insectary company was sold and I would fly back to Tucson. I met my new friends, the men who helped me realize my dream, and would start the tradition of an annual buying trip. I thought it strange when told to keep my contact secret, but the rock and mineral world works in mysterious ways.
Eighteen years have gone by, I am readying to return to Tucson. It always brings an added excitement to my days. The anticipation of new discoveries, of what merchandise will be available, and the chance to renew friendships with those only seen once a year from all over the world. Tucson, here I come!