Despite recession, some dealers add inventory
Eric Miller (left), of Berthoud, Colo., and Tucsonan Bill Baker get a closer look at an Edmontosaurus dinosaur fossil Wednesday afternoon. Baker is co-owner of the South Dakota fossil, which is priced at $400,000.
The tents are mostly up for the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, and so are expectations for some vendors.
There will be a handful more vendors at the Tucson Convention Center gem show than last year, and at least one hotel along Interstate 10 booked more rooms this year than last for the nation’s largest gathering of mineral vendors.
Dealers from around the world come here to buy wholesale, and the public shows up in droves for retail shows.
Two bead shows opened Wednesday, but most shows don’t start until Saturday (see list in Calendar section). The shows also end on different dates, but all will close by Feb. 15. The 55th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show runs Feb. 12 to 15 at the TCC, 260 S. Church Ave.
Jay Gehring, 68, owns Village Originals, a mineral dealer based in Orlando, Fla. Gehring has been in Tucson each of the past 36 years to sell to the public and dealers. He is not about to let the economy get him down.
“We’re not going to participate in the recession or depression or whatever it is,” Gehring said while supervising the setup of his tent at the Tucson Electric Park Mineral Show at the Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way.
Because his goods – and most of the wares for sale at the gem shows – are impulse buys, the mineral business has been hit hard by economic woes this past year. But Gehring decided to buck the trend, keeping all of the 200 employees across the nation who depend on him and even expanding his inventory to include Indonesian petrified wood, which he has never sold before.
“We anticipate the show to be down 20 to 30 percent, but we’ve gone the opposite, so our tent’s half again as big as it was,” he said Monday.
Village Originals has a store at Tempe’s Arizona Mills, the largest shopping mall in Arizona. Despite the recession, 2008 was a good year for Gehring in Tempe, he said.
“We were up for the Christmas season (over 2007). I don’t think anybody else in the mall can say that,” he said.
Because all of the 45 shows are independent, it is hard to get a handle on how many vendors will be here, said Kimberly Schmitz, communications director for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“There are thousands of them,” Schmitz said. “We have show owners with waiting lists of vendors waiting to get into their shows.”
The booths and tents will offer everything from Spanish doubloons (coins) and Indonesian carvings to a vast array of decorative mineral spheres, huge crystals and fossils. Prices range from a few cents to more than $1 million.
There will also be free classes at many shows to teach folks how to make jewelry or shape stone, Schmitz said.
Tucsonan Zee Haag, who deals mainly in high-end art pieces made with huge mineral chunks and metal, gets about 40 percent of his annual income during the Tucson show. He doesn’t think it will be a bad year, necessarily, but this year he is adding a two-day auction to his operation behind Tucson Electric Park to help bring in sales. The auction will be at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 and 8 behind TEP. Haag’s prices range from $300 to more than $1 million.
“I like to keep positive. My feeling is the competition will be stronger, but people will be here (to buy),” he said.
Haag and Thomas Lindgren, a dealer who specializes in high-end fossils mostly used in architecture or interior design, agreed the high-end dealers are somewhat insulated.
“Anything under $500, I think that market has been hurt,” said Lindgren, who owns GeoDecor and has set up shop at The Mineral and Fossil Co-op, 1635 N. Oracle Road.
On Wednesday, GeoDecor crews were assembling a 28-foot-long dinosaur fossil ($450,000) after a delay at U.S. Customs. The company also has a 7,000-pound meteorite from Russia ($3.5 million) and a replica of the largest shark jaws in the world (complete with real fossil teeth, $1.25 million).
Attendance at some shows might dip this year, because some dealers are sending fewer buyers here – maybe just one or two instead of the usual five, but overall Schmitz expects a decent year. She expects a normal year because dealers normally don’t skip major shows even in bad years.
There are three entirely new shows this year: the Rock, Gem & Lapidary Show, 1201 N. Main Ave.; the Tucson Bead Show, 445 S. Alvernon Way; and the Manning House Bead Show, 450 W. Paseo Redondo.
Gem Ride scaled back
Budget cuts in the city and the visitors bureau have hit the gem show shuttle system, Gem Ride, which last year offered service to outlying areas, Schmitz said.
“This year it’s been pared down, and it’s primarily along the Interstate 10 corridor,” she said.
The shuttle’s 12 buses will circulate continuously among shows in midtown, along I-10 and at Kino Sports Complex. The city-owned shuttles are free and offer a quick way around the shows without the hassles of walking long distances or reparking your car.
Parking for the shuttles is available on Congress Street west of the Santa Cruz River (west of I-10), at the northeast corner of 22nd Street and I-10 and the Tucson Expo Center, 3750 E. Irvington Road. Waits between shuttles should be about 25 minutes or less.
Each stop will have staff available to help with directions or to answer questions.
Jay Gerhing, owner of Village Originals, Orlando, Fla., talks about his expanded business on Monday at the gem show.
Brianna Freeman, 12, (right) and her brother Davis, 10, (partially obscured) and their mom, Linda (center) pick out stone-carved animals for gifts for friends back home at Jean-Claude Minerals Stone Carvings at the Days Inn Gem Show. The animals are carved out of a soft marble from Peru. The family was visiting from Washington state.
Getting ready for gem shows
Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase
Vendors prepare for the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase
Producer: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
Slide 1 of 17.
Tucson local artist Zee Haag sets up his meteorite piece of art at the Tucson Electric Park Gem, Mineral & Show, 2500 E. Ajo Way.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 2 of 17.
An untitled piece of artwork by Tucson local artist Zee Haag at the TEP gem show Monday afternoon.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 3 of 17.
Jay Gerhing, owner of Village Originals, talks about his new expanded business at the TEP Gem Show on Monday.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 4 of 17.
Some of the colorful gems on sell at the Village Originals at the TEP Gem Show.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 5 of 17.
Workers for Village Originals unload Indonesian petrified wood at the TEP Gem Show
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 6 of 17.
Indonesian petrified wood pieces.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson CitizenSlide 7 of 17.
Consuelo Piccarella (right) guides Juan Delgado in placing a 220-pound egg-shaped piece of nephrite from Peru at the Vicjon Enterprises Inc. tent. Their wares are part of the Globe-X/Days Inn at 222 S. Freeway. Gem exhibits will be set up all over town from Jan. 31 until Feb. 15.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 8 of 17.
Consuelo Piccarella (right) guides Juan Delgado in placing a piece of nephrite at Days Inn.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 9 of 17.
Davis Freeman, 10, picks out stone carved animals from Jean-Claude Minerals Stone Carvings at the Days Inn Gem Show. He picked out a cat, squirrel, dog and a seal. His family was visiting from Washington state and stopped by the gem show on their way out.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 10 of 17.
Brianna Freeman, 12, (left) and her brother Davis, 10, pick out stone carved animals for gifts for their friends back home at Jean-Claude Minerals Stone Carvings at the Globe-X/Days Inn Gem Show. Davis picked out a cat, squirrel, dog and a seal. The animals are carved out of a soft marble from Peru. Her family was visiting from Washington state and stopped by the gem show on their way out.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 11 of 17.
Brianna Freeman, 12, (right) and her brother Davis, 10, with their mom, Linda (middle) pick out stone carved animals for gifts for their friends back home at Jean-Claude Minerals Stone Carvings at the Globe-X/Days Inn Gem Show, 222 S. Freeway.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 12 of 17.
Wayde Kau, with Prime Event Group, helps erect a GJX Gem & Jewelry Show tent downtown on Wednesday.
Source: HEATHER RAFTERY/Tucson CitizenSlide 13 of 17.
Gem show tents are rising in the parking lot of Tucson Electric Park, 2500 E. Ajo Way, on Monday.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 14 of 17.
Workers for Prime Event Group help erect a tent downtown.
Source: HEATHER RAFTERY/Tucson CitizenSlide 15 of 17.
Workers for Prime Event Group put up a tent.
Source: HEATHER RAFTERY/Tucson CitizenSlide 16 of 17.
Arturo Trejo, on an elevator lift, puts up a tent at Tucson Electric Park Monday.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson CitizenSlide 17 of 17.
Gem show tents rise in the parking lot at Tucson Electric Park. There are about 12 large tents in TEP parking lot.
Source: RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson Citizen
For a list of shows, and dates they will be open, see Thursday’s Calendar section of the Tucson Citizen.
Tucson Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.visittucson.org
Gem show guide: www.tucsongemshowguide.com
Tucson Gem and Mineral Society: www.tgms.org