Nature’s Own mineral and fossil shop in Breckenridge celebrates 25 years
The bright pink mineral rhodochrosite — Colorado’s state mineral — sparkles in a case at Nature’s Own in Breckenridge. The $3,200 rock is surrounded by hundreds of other minerals such as amethyst, aquamarine, smoky quartz and ancient fossils, starfish and ammonites.
The store is celebrating its 25th year in business, as one of the original tenants in the pink Four Seasons Plaza on the south end of Main Street. Owner Larry Lewarton credits his current staff members, and those throughout the years, with helping him reach such success.
“We’ve gone through the ups and downs of everything,” he said. “Economics, all the changes, survived it all. I go back to the important people who made it so that we’re able to have a successful business all those years.”
Lewarton started the store in 1988 with his ex-wife, Sandy, and partner Roy Young, and said people spend many years working in the shop and helping to make it their own.
Current staff members Jill Anderson, Susan Harrison and Lori Hodel have worked at Nature’s Own for 14, six and three years, respectively. Lewarton and Hodel have geology degrees, and all staff members have a vested interest in minerals and fossils.
“The clientele and people who help run this store, their interests define my job, what I need to go out and get,” Lewarton said. “The quality and value of the product we carry is a reflection upon what our customers and what people who work here have helped to evolve.”
Lewarton credits 25 years of putting profits back into the product rather than taking them home with his business’ growth — its larger products and higher quality.
“We have a collection in here of minerals and fossils you will not see anywhere in any rock shop; no one has a collection like this,” he said.
The collection at Nature’s Own comes from all over the world. Lewarton buys his items at many international gem and mineral shows, as well as from local Colorado miners.
“This works because you can control one shop, put all of your heart into one shop,” he said. “It becomes an economic thing with more than one shop, it’s not as soulful. There’s a lot of soul in this store.”
For Lewarton, seeing young children come into the shop is one reason he keeps his prices fair and affordable, to help them start their collections.
“Kids are the future of mineral and rock collecting,” he said. “So I still have nice things at a good value.”
With some private investors, some sales can total upwards of $20,000, depending on the rarity of the purchase. Lewarton said some of his favorite moments are when someone who just started working makes a big sale, and can share their knowledge on certain items. He’s seen 30-year-old customers come in who first visited when they were 7 and came back every year with their families.
“People make us a destination when they come to Breckenridge,” he said. “Your favorites change day to day, there are so many nice things, so something catches your eye and you just appreciate that in the moment.”
Every mineral is unique to its location — fluorite from Illinois looks different from fluorite from Morocco, for example.
“Minerals are rocks, but specialized rocks,” Lewarton said. “They have a unique chemistry and a unique form and color. It’s chemistry in your hand, that’s what minerals are.”
Looking to the future, Lewarton said he will step back over time and eventually rely more on his staff — whom he credits with his success — to do more purchasing as he relaxes more.
“They key to being around is having good people work for you, having good customer relations, having the business model to withstand economic downturns, survive off-seasons,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of changes, but enjoying where you live helps for longevity with work.”
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