Tucked inside a humble space downtown are enough gems and minerals to give the illusion of stepping into a cave rich with geological diversity.
Adam Guss, a 32-year-old Baldwin City native, opened Summit’s Steps Minerals at 17 W. 9th St., last month in hopes of finding a niche and intrigued by any number of the pieces he has culled from gem and mineral shows or obtained from friends who’ve traveled the world over.
“Everything I get I hand pick,” Guss said.
A sampling of what’s on display on a given afternoon include meteorites from Argentina, chrome deposits from an ore field in Finland and cut and polished pyramids from Pakistan. Prices range from $5 up to $5,000, and Guss also offers a “pick your piece, pick your price” shelf where customers can select up to two pieces at a time for a minimum of $1 each.
Foot traffic is still slow at times, Guss said, but “the majority of the people that do come in are really into it.”
One weekend afternoon, a Kansas University basketball game slowed shopping to a halt. Still, a young couple passing by couldn’t help but notice Guss’ large quartz skulls sculpted in Brazil. Deeming the find a “dope piece,” one visitor began snapping photos with his cellphone.
Guss’ shop evolved from a successful weekend of sales at the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City to a display case at his mother’s antique store in Baldwin City to a small space above Francis Sporting Goods downtown before Guss settled in his present location.
“I wanted to move downtown and this is the exact space I wanted,” Guss said, calling stores like Jewelry By Julie next door and Blackbird Trading across the street ideal neighbors.
He also sells on the online marketplace Etsy.com via the username “Kyanitecluster” and goes to area gem and mineral shows to build clientele.
Without the additional efforts, Guss said, he doesn’t know how he could stay in business.
“I find it hard to believe that a business can make it today by just being a retail shop,” Guss said.
Guss began collecting and mining for gem and minerals about 10 years ago, although he considers mining more of an occasional hobby because in Kansas, “most of the great fossils are way out west.”
He spent several years after high school studying geology at Johnson County Community College and elsewhere before shifting his focus to gem and mineral collecting and selling. Though getting into the business was a decision made as an adult, there was something about the practice that spoke of younger years.
“It’s a thrill to discover something,” Guss said. “A childhood connection to finding treasure in the ground.”