Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kids Take Note: A Rock Shop in Cockeysville

I'd be curious to learn how many members of the Baltimore Mineral Society were aware that a "rock shop" was across the York Road from the Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Department where its members meet on the fourth Wednesday evening of each month. Particularly interesting is that this neighbor is a major local player in a calling that the Society holds dear. It's all about perpetuating the hobby of mineralogy by engaging the interest of young people. 

An enterprise calling itself Beads and Weeds  inside the Pennsylvania Dutch Market hardly seems the kind of establishment where members of the Baltimore Mineral Society would typically expect to find rocks and minerals for sale. The name is because its proprietor, Rhoda Zaid, is a custom bead stringer who originally opened the business as a bead store. That was 17 years ago in Westminster at the "Amish Market" before it moved to Hunt Valley. The "Weeds" part refers to plants that Rhoda has been known to also sell on specific occasions. Otherwise, minerals and a few fossils account for about a third of her inventory. The other two thirds are  divided between beads and jewelry. 

Effectively luring youngsters to the stepped display of minerals that's portrayed in our title image is a gumball machine Rhoda calls "Are You Ready to Rock?." Instead of gum or candy, however, it's filled with small polished stones, sharks teeth, and the occasional lucky crystal. For additional enticement, if a kid returns the plastic bubble that encases the treasure, he/she gets to pick out a free rock. Note also the magnifying glass on the bottom shelf for young prospective buyers to study the minerals that are for sale. The selection is interesting and diverse. I even observed an iridescent siderite specimen from Baltimore County's long built over Arbutus Canyon. The price was just a few dollars. "If you're good while we're shopping, I'll buy you a rock," Rhoda reports having heard mothers tell their kids on more than one occasion. "Anything to get them away from those video games," she adds after a moment's thought. 

Youngsters account for about 40 per cent of those who buy minerals from Rhoda. The rest, she informs me, are adults. If  not avid collectors, some are likely to acquire minerals as home decor. Others, heaven forbid, purchase minerals for their "healing properties."

Adults, of course can better afford some of the more expensive specimens that Rhoda keeps in a glass case adjacent to the open display. Though the price tags are a bit higher, they're neither unreasonable nor out of reach for most pocketbooks. And once kids get hooked, the minerals in the cabinet are perfect for advancing them in their hobby. 
Rhoda mentioned to me that in recent years she has observed increase interest in minerals on the part of young people. Let's hope she's right. 

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