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Tom Handley holds a piece of Baltic amber with a small insect-like creature from the Eocene Period that's been trapped inside.
Business name: Handley Rock and Jewelry Supply
Address: 6160 N.E. Highway 99, Vancouver
The company operates a second store, with a jewelry industry focus, in the Willamette Building, 534 S.W. Third Ave., No. 810, Portland
Owners: Arlene Handley and her son Tom Handley
What the business does: Handley Rock and Jewelry Supply is a retail store.
The store sells rocks, minerals, fossils, lapidary equipment, jewelry-making supplies, books and stone home decor and art objects. It also sells specimens to science teachers for their classrooms and, by prior arrangement, store staff will tutor earth science students for competitions.
Steps to build the business: Arlene and Tom Handley said most of their niche market business is attracted through word of mouth. They have customers from throughout the United States because of their regional reputation as experts in mineralogy. The Handleys plan to increase their gift market and high-end jewelry product line.
Greatest challenge: The largest challenge has been building solid and reliable business relationships with suppliers of rare minerals and fossils over the years, Arlene Handley said. Because she knows the suppliers, she is confident in the quality of their products and is willing to stand behind the items her shop sells. Another business challenge is anticipating trends to enable the shop to stock enough product to satisfy consumer demand without ending up with a backlog of products. The company focuses on carrying quality merchandise and not necessarily having the newest signs or store fixtures.
What's ahead in the next six to eight months: Arlene Handley is focused this winter on her annual buying trip and attending industry shows. She will also participate in some rock hounding expeditions. After the new merchandise arrives at the store, the staff educates customers on what is available and how it is to be used.
Owner's business history: Arlene Handley started the business, in her home, as a fundraising effort to support a passionate desire to collect mineral specimens from various worldwide locations. Several years later she moved into retail space. Arlene Handley has served as national president of Friends of Mineralogy. Prior to opening the rock and jewelry supply business, she managed a book and gift shop in Charleston, S.C., and had worked in regional advertising and sales.
A favorite part of the job: Arlene Handley loves to collect and a favorite part of her job is working with other enthusiasts. She likes helping customers design and execute a great piece of homemade jewelry, such as redesigning an old piece of antique or inherited family jewelry.
Year established in Clark County: 1968.
Employees: Owners plus five employees.
Phone: Vancouver: 360-693-1034; Portland: 503-241-4306.
Website:Handley Rock & Jewelry Supply.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.