Interview with Marc Taylor
The Yachats Gazette spoke with Marc Taylor, who has returned to Yachats from Sisters to reopen his Roadrunner Rock Shop, located right next to the Post Office.
|The Roadrunner Rock Shop|
Marc: We put together an absolutely beautiful store in central Oregon. We were there about a year and a half, and decided that we may look at not being there anymore because I didn't much care for the area. My wife, my family, loved it, but it wasn't for me. We had some people coming in on a Sunday afternoon, saying that they were looking for a place to put a rock shop in Bend—I said you need to quit looking and just buy this one! Twenty minutes later, we shook hands, and within 30 days the deal was done. The people who bought it—we are no longer affiliated with that store anymore—have done a good job of what they do, and we are grateful to be back in Yachats doing what we do here.
TYG: So, I know you rock-hounded around North America for what, 16 months?
Marc: We traveled for 16 months, and spent about half that time in Nevada, which is our very favorite place to go rock-hunting besides here. And it was a ball. We went to mine sites all over the place, we found crystals, we found rocks, fossils, and minerals and all different kinds of things. We found a little bit of silver, we found all kinds of neat little things. As of July 1st, we decided it was time to be done traveling. We were going to set up for a month in the parking lot like we'd done the year before, however we decided this time to acquire the building, so we have a major project ahead of us, but we're very excited about it.
TYG: How long was this place for sale, anyway?
Marc: Well, different stages at different times, but it was empty a couple of times for three years at least, I think.
TYG: Alder closed that long ago? Wow, time flies. It feels like last month. [They break for a customer.] So, what was your favorite part—or favorite few parts—of your... well, I'm loathe to call it a vacation...
Marc: You know, it wasn't about rocks. It wasn't about fossils. It wasn't about minerals. It was about what happened to our family, how close we became, and how, as opposed to four individuals living in this great big house, we became one true, honest-to-goodness family forced to live in 38 feet, rain, shine, sleet, snow, whatever it was! Even through the trying times, the hard parts of it, the driving over crazy mountains and curves and all of that, we became a more cohesive unit. My children are way better people for it, and gratefully, so are my wife and I. We just became better people, I think was the best part of the trip. It was also cool to see wildlife, and open a piece of the ground that had crystals in it, to be the first person who's ever gotten to see those things—that's pretty exciting stuff. But what it did for us as a family was truly what I'm excited about.
TYG: Slightly anecdotal, but I heard mention you found a small deposit of silver or something?
Marc: Yes, we found a little bit of silver in central Nevada, but it is so expensive to process that it is absolutely not worth dealing with unless you're somebody that's going to be one of the big companies.
TYG: Or unless there's a lot of it?
Marc: Well, there was a lot of it—it just wasn't worth dealing with. It was also a place where I didn't want to be forever—it's a place that I really like to go visit and have fun, and I would have had to make some pretty major investments to get things to pan out (no pun intended).
TYG: So, what made you choose this space?
Marc: Well, Yachats is home, and it always will be. I absolutely love this area. And the Alder building—or the La Serre building, whatever you want to call it—the rock shop building, was available. There's not a lot of space here [in the town], and I saw a long-term project and a tremendous potential for growth in a community that has always treated me very well. Now I have an opportunity to show, and do, what we love, in a great place that we love. As you know, living here—this is pretty magical. I've been all over, and... I want to be here. I feel pretty fortunate to get this space. We worked out a great deal on the building, and I've got five years of work ahead of me, or more, but that's okay. It's a big project that we're going to do as a family and have fun with it.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: What are some of your up-coming plans for it?
Marc: So, by Saturday, our dinosaur dig site is going to be open. We're adding a fluorescent room where the old cooler used to be. We're doing a gem-mining station that will include a water wheel and the whole thing. We're taking where the old bar was and making an extension of my living room. We're going to put in some great, big crystals, a dinosaur or two, and just a nice, quiet sitting space that we want to share with the community. [Another customer break—that turns into having to come back another day.]
TYG: So, how have you been enjoying being back so far?
Marc: Probably one of the best decisions we've made as a family ever. When we first got back here we weren't sure how well it was going to work or not, and we took a gamble, and I think it's going to be of benefit to our community and our family. We're pretty excited about it and what we're going to be doing in the future.
TYG: Sure! So, where do you get [the rocks]? I know some of them you get from your travels.
Marc: Some of them we've collected ourselves, when we were rock hounding in the western part of the US. But we've developed relationships with mine owners all over the world over the past several years. We feel really fortunate to have good relationships with people who are both processing, and mining for themselves. By buying direct, we get to eliminate all of the middle men. So we travel and do big shows, and also, as they find it, we'll get new products.
TYG-Graphic Design: Did I understand you went to South America?
Marc: No, we haven't gone to South America yet. We have really strong relationships in South America, and Morocco. But neither place have we gone with the family yet. Morocco has one of the largest concentrations of minerals anywhere in the world, because of the Atlas Mountains. There is over 500 miles of just incredible stuff. You can find everything from 500 million year old fossils to incredible mineral specimens within a mile of each other. It's really amazing.
TYG-GD: So it used to be a seabed, I guess?
Marc: Yes, especially the Western Sahara. That used to all be under water. [greets the first customer of the day] That is a prolific area for fossils. There's an area called Kem Kem, Morocco, where probably 70% of our fossils come from. The mosasaur was a big amphibious predator, an apex sea predator, and there's a huge concentration of their fossils in that area. We deal direct with some fossil hunters who bring it to the US. So we get some pretty phenomenal stuff that way.
TYG-GD: Wow, that's amazing! How did you make that contact?
Marc: So, we bought a company that was already in existence and had been for many, many years. When we did that—he had developed some relationships—we morphed them into who we wanted to deal with, who were probably related to the people he dealt with. So we started there, but expanded on it and found our own people.
TYG-GD: Wow! Do you want to go travel over there some day?
Marc: Absolutely! And I want to do it as a family. But I want to wait a couple more years until Mikey [his youngest son] is a little older. And then Quentin [his oldest son] will be bigger and stronger and can help lift more. [laughter from everyone except maybe Quentin]
TYG: I also noticed you had quite a lot of stuff from Madagascar. Is that the same system?
Marc: Madagascar has over 4,000 different minerals on that one little tiny island. There are 54,000, approximately, documented minerals in all—so that there would be 4,000 of them in that small area is incredible. But the jaspers, the agates that come out of there, just the way that volcanic area is, produces a tremendous amount of really cool materials. And it's very pretty material. So we sell a lot of it for home decor.
TYG: And is it the malachite that comes out of there as well?
Marc: Most of the malachite that we have comes from the Congo, in Africa. However, we do get some out of Morocco as well, and Brazil—most anywhere there's copper, you're going to be able to find malachite, azurite, copper-related minerals. And so we've got some malachite that we found ourselves in Nevada.
TYG: I've always been curious—where do you get the selenite?
Marc: The selenite comes out of Erfoud, Morocco, and that's a fiber optic selenite that carries the light really well. We deal direct with the line that gets it, and it's one of the more beautiful minerals that we sell, but it's also fairly inexpensive.
TYG: It's also one of the most fragile!
Marc: We carve it into all kinds of things. And you say fragile: it is, it's a 2.5 hardness, which means that it's going to be fairly soft. But it's gypsum; it's the same mineral that they make sheet rock out of.
TYG: Presumably, some of your amber comes from the Baltics second-hand.
Marc: Correct. None of our amber, except the stuff we get out of Indonesia, do we buy direct. We get a little bit out of Columbia, we get some out of Brazil, some out of Africa but very little; we get lots out of Madagascar. It has lots of great inclusions: bug, all kinds of little sweat bees and ants, gnats and stuff. The amber we get out of Indonesia is a blue amber, and it's called a Sumatran Blue. It actually fluoresces under black light. We have access to that direct, and so we're bringing in quite large quantities of it.
TYG-GD: Why is it second-hand from the Baltics?
Marc: Because there's no more coming out of the ground. They're not really mining much for it anymore. They'll mine the occasional pieces, but most of the Baltic amber that's on the market is all that's available.
TYG: The Baltics were the source of amber for thousands of years. From what I understand there was an unbelievable amount there, and it's just been slowly mined out. So, do the geodes come out of Morocco and Madagascar as well?
Marc: I don't get any geodes out of Madagascar. I do however get them from Morocco, and lots and lots from Mexico, Iowa, Idaho. They're literally all over the world. Just depends on what we're looking for as to where we get them.
TYG-GD: Have you gotten to recognizing them yourself when you see them? How do you know?
Marc: Oh yes. Experience, you know. On probably 80% of them, I can tell you where it came from. But there are a lot of them out there that I've never seen, or don't know how to identify. But for the most part, we've done a pretty good job of studying up where different kinds of things come from. We have three different geodes that come from Durango, Mexico, that are all from less than 20 miles apart and that are significantly different. One has an agatized shell, one has a clay shell, and the other is a rhyolite.
TYG-GD: What does the Yachats area offer in terms of [rock hounding]?
Marc: Well, Yachats is unique itself, because it's got world-class agate hunting here in the winter time.
TYG-GD: Is it really world-class?
Marc: It is, actually. Some of the stuff that comes from here is absolutely phenomenal. The blues that we get from here are exceptional. And the fortification that you can get in some of the agates from around here... Yachats has sagenite agates, which are quite uncommon. Another one that's unique to here is called the Yachats Rose; it's like the Holy Grail of agate hunting on the beach. I actually found this one in Yachats Bay. [he shows us a white, circular, rippled formation that does indeed look like a rose; it's about 2 inches in diameter] And I'd been looking for one of these my whole life!
Marc: And I found one in July, when we got back here.
TYG-GD: And do we have any geodes?
Marc: Yes, a few. They're quartz-filled; stuff that's going to weather out of basalt. So like a lot of the carnelian agates that you find around here, they'll have a pocket in them with a bunch of little crystals. Technically, that's a geode. There are tons of geodes in Central Oregon, like around Prineville.
TYG: So do all the fossils come from Morocco and South America as well?
Marc: No, we bring in fossils from all over the United States, but our big, big fossils are primarily from Morocco. We have one of the largest selection of fish fossils around, and those all come from Wyoming. Like this little guy right here, this is a Diplomystus, and it's 52 to 48 million years old. They were a freshwater fish.
Marc: Well, it does, but if you really get over here looking at it, you can really see the fine detail. When they fossilize, imagine it getting covered with sediment. It's still got its skin on, and then the skin kind of carbonizes over the bones, and that's what creates a lot of the black. This one is 100% natural, not touched up, but there are a lot of them that get touched up.
TYG-GD: So what's this edge here [outlining the fish]?
Marc: So, they ground this out so that they could get to the fish, so they could make the best display. If you get a perfect split—because they're splitting layers of shale to find the fish—but if you get a perfect split, then it's going to look like that one, where there's no relief—it's literally the layer. That's a Priscacara, an extremely rare fish. [another customer break]
TYG-GD: Are you going to have machines that people can use?
Marc: So, behind this wall, we just built a dinosaur dig site. The walls are inlaid with fish, and we had all kinds of fun making it look sort of rocky. I'm putting in a fluorescent room for kids, so that they'll be able to flip a switch and long wave UV will come on, and the rock wall will turn one color; and then you can flip another switch and short wave UV will come on, and it'll turn everything even a different color. It's amazing how some of these rocks are just "dud-dy" when you look at them under regular light, and then you put the UV on them and they're phenomenal. And we have fluorescents literally from all over the world, and one of the things we have here that are super-fun, especially for kids, is we have Yooperlites that come out of the upper peninsula in Michigan. They're pretty phenomenal—super-fun. You guys want to see some fluorescents?
TYG-GD: Yes, that would be great! [we go to a small room in the back where he shows us shelves of non-descript rocks that glow beautifully under a black light flashlight] So, what's your favorite piece in the whole collection?
Marc: You know, because I'm not a collector... My thing is that I like to share. So I don't have a favorite piece. My favorite thing is to share these minerals and have people walk out of here with a smile on their face. There are few things that make me happier than making other people happy. [we break for another couple of customers] So, we have a dinosaur dig site. The kids will have a six by six foot matrix. It'll be loaded full of shark teeth, crinoids, brachiopods, echinoderms, all kinds of cool fossils. There will also be the occasional real dinosaur tooth, whether it be from a mosasaur, an elasmosaur, or a crocodilian creature of some kind—there's going to be all kinds of neat stuff in there. And about one in ten, you're going to be able to get a spinosaurus tooth, or [one from] an Otodus obliquus, the ancestor of the Great White. There's going to be some really cool stuff you're going to be able to get. And we're going to be able to do it for seven bucks.
Marc: As this remodel goes—we're fixing up the place—we're going to put in a geode break station for kids. We're going to have six different varieties of geodes that we'll either be able to cut on-site for you as you wait, or you'll be able to break them on your own with a hammer, or we'll have a chain breaker as well.
TYG-GD: What's a chain breaker?
Marc: It's basically a chain that wraps around the geode, and you pull a lever, and it cracks the geode.
TYG: Does that shatter it?
Marc: Not normally. [laughs]
TYG: I could see the hammer shattering things.
Marc: Yes, but it's about finesse, not strength, when it comes to breaking geodes. Anyway, then we're going to put in a gem-mining site; it'll have a water-wheel with a trough that comes down, and you'll be able to pan for gemstones in there as well. And then, long-term, outside we're going to have a big sandbox out there that will have cast dinosaurs under the sand, like footprints of T. Rex and all kinds of fun stuff. The kids will be able to go out there and dig it up, and play with brushes, and do true digs. And then, where the old bar used to be, I'm making that kind of an extension of my living room. We're going to put in a few great big crystals, our dinosaur is going to be in there, and there are going to be some recliners, a few tables, and it's going to be a really nice, quiet, fun area. And hopefully we'll be able to do a thing like Crystals and Cabernet, on occasion.
TYG: And you haven't seen the photo of the dinosaur yet, have you?
TYG-GD: No, I haven't! [to Marc] Are you going to have a tumbler that's for rent, or something?
Marc: We will offer cutting services for people, but I won't be tumbling for people. It's too hard to keep track of everybody's stuff. [Shows us a picture of the dinosaur he's getting, on his phone]
TYG-GD: Wow, that's impressive! How big is it—about six feet?
Marc: No, it's 12 feet tall, 17 feet long.
TYG-GD: Oh my goodness! Where is it coming from?
TYG: That's quite a move... Well, thank you for your time!
Marc: Thank you sir!
TYG-GD: I'm glad you guys are back in town.
Marc: I am too. It's really great to be home.
|More fish and other fossils|