Back from Tucson

Derek and I survived the Tucson battle!

We had six days of shopping from early morning to early evening, and came home with lots and lots of new treasures.

Among the new arrivals are:

AA grade Blue Lace Agate Palm Stones. For the first time in about 8 years, we found beautiful BLA stones. These are a little smaller than the ones that we acquired years ago, but just as gorgeous. I grabbed five kilos of these the minute that I saw them.

Pietersite! We were very lucky to find the owner of the only producing Pietersite mine. He had bags of outstanding tumbled stones, and a few of these bags were filled with extra-large stones. While not flat and symmetrical like most Palm Stones, we will be listing many of these in this category simply because they are so wonderful and so large.

Fifty more Olivine slabs

Awesome Agate and Amethyst spheres.

Beautiful tumbled Wavy Turquoise.

Lots and lots of wonderful Hearts.

29 of the most beautiful shimmering Amazonite Palms that I have ever seen.

We got first crack at the dealer who has the most beautiful large soap-shaped Obsidian stones. I bought 50 of his 60 offerings, including Gold Sheen, Silver Sheen, Spider, and Velvet varieties.

Rough Sulfer (as yellow as yellow can get), rough Green Tourmaline in White Quartz, a couple of awesome Smokey Quartz pieces, lots more Moldavite, and on and on.

We will slowly be adding these newbies to the store. In the meantime, if you would like photos of any of the above, or would like to know if we picked up something that you are hoping to find, please just ask.

ADDENDUM

The current plan is to add a limited number of new Palm Stone varieties, and then move on to restocking and adding lots of Tumbled Stones.

Tucson Show is Coming

Well, it is almost that time again.

I will be headed to Tucson in three weeks to buy at the biggest rock, mineral, gem and jewelry show in the world. If you are not familiar with the event, you might enjoy the Tucson Photo Essay that we have on our website. I think that we are the only people who have ever presented such a piece

This year will be a little different and sad for me.

Kathi’s chronic pain condition has gotten so bad that she will not be able to go to the show. I am not able to drive due to visual impairment, and Kathi has always taken us in the past, even though over the last few years it became almost an impossible effort for her

We would have to take an extra rest day in Santa Fe so that Kathi could spend the day sleeping in order to be able to make the rest of the drive. Then, most often at the shows I would have to do almost all of the buying myself while Kathi either rested at the hotel or tried to sleep in the car.

It has finally become beyond Kathi’s ability to do Tucson, and I will miss having her there with me, as going to the Tucson Show is as much a tradition for us as any other event in our lives.

Fortunately, our elder daughter’s boyfriend has very generously offered to take time off of work and spend ten days with me on the road.

We love Derek to death, and this will be his first time experiencing anything like Tucson. He has been studying up, and I expect that the two of us will have a very interesting and fun time.

Kathi and I could not be more grateful for him stepping in to help us keep our passion going, and someday he just might wind up keeping the family business living on.

If there is anything special that you would like me to look for for you in Arizona, please let me know. I usually do lots of special shopping for clients, and looking for requested items always adds to the adventure of the experience.

We Are Back!

Hi to everyone.

Those of you who follow Kathi’s and my doings probably have been wondering why I disappeared from this Blog.

Here is why:

On the day before New Year’s Eve I was struck down with a completely obstructed intestine. I ended up spending the entire month of January in our local hospital where I underwent 3 surgeries and survived a massive infection.

Kathi was there with me virtually 24/7, and watched over me like a hawk. Many patients who wind up suffering with what I did never make it home. I am one lucky person, and without Kathi’s loving care and attention during the ordeal, I may not have made it home either.

Anyway, This experience has completely wiped out both of us. I have a long recovery ahead (I lost 30 pounds that I could not afford to lose) and Kathi is still recovering from the stress of the entire ordeal.

From a rock standpoint, the saddest thing is that we had to cancel our trip to the Tucson Show, and that was heartbreaking for us.

We have, however, kept selling.. Strangely, we have experienced more business in the last two months than at any time in our history; so much so that we have barely been able to keep up with it.

The downside of that is that many stone varieties on the website are running low or showing as none available, and we have not yet had the ability to be replenishing all of this stock.

We expect to start the task of adding hundreds of stones to the website fairly soon, but we will be moving fairly slowly as we both continue through the recovery process.

In the meantime, if you are trying to buy a stone variety that is showing as either unavailable or in very limited supply on the website, the chances are very high that we have more in inventory.  If you send an email I will be happy to photograph some specimens for your consideration.

Finally, to all of our clients/friends who have been aware of what Kathi and I have been going through and have offered amazing support and understanding, we offer our sincere thanks. Your kind words, patience with order deliveries, and overall encouragement have shown us, once again, that rock people are very special people.

Save For Later Wish List

We recently added a very helpful feature to the Kathi’s Krystals website.

Once you are logged into the site, you can now mark any item as “Save for Later”.  If so marked, the item will show up underneath any items currently included in your shopping cart. It is like a “Wish List” of items that you hope to purchase in the future.

You can then, at any time in the future (as long as that item has not been bought by someone else), easily move the item into your shopping cart by clicking on the big black upward arrow to the left of the saved item.

Similarly, you can move any item in your shopping cart into the Save for Later category by clicking on the big black downward arrow to the left of that item which is in your cart.

This feature allows you to store several items in your shopping cart, but purchase only a subset of those items at some point by moving the ones that you hope to pay for in the future into the Saved category.

Thanks to Marcie for suggesting that we look into adding this capability!

If You Don’t See What You Want…

We have been going through our busiest period in the history of Kathi’s Krystals. As fast as we can get stones loaded onto the website, they seem to get purchased.

If we had nothing to do but stock the website we probably would barely be able to keep up. Given our eBay work and direct sales, it seems, at times, like an insurmountable task.

The offshoot of this is that:

If you are shopping for a stone in a particular variety and the website is either out of stock or has very few options offered, we very likely have more stones down in the stockroom.  Please feel free to ask. We can always send you photos of pieces that have not yet been listed..

Testimonials Page

Yesterday we added a Testimonials Page to the website.

This is something that we should have done 5 years ago, but somehow never got around to.

Thanks to our wonderful clients who have already contributed comments, and if you would like to join them, just click on the email link on the page.

How Plans Change

It is very true that the process of running one’s own business, big or small, expands to fill all available time. Further, on any given day, the plans for that day may wind up being preempted by events or activities that represent higher priority. Yesterday was such a day.

I had planned to spend the day pulling, measuring and photographing some of our recent great Denver Show finds for the website. It never happened. That is because clients ALWAYS come first.

We awoke to find a $300 order from the website (what we call the store). That is larger than the average order, and was a nice way to start the day.

We have somewhere around 2,000 items in the store, and I had to find 9 of them (I usually do this part of order fulfillment). It actually took us a few years to get this part of the job down to an efficient process.

We have large plastic bins where we store all of the items listed in the store. The bins are labeled by type of stone (say Palm Stones), and if the type of stone requires more than one bin, the bins for that type of stone are alphabetized.  We have 5 Palm Stone bins.

Each bin contains Ziplock type bags; one bag for each variety of stone (say Amethyst) in that bin.

In each of those bags we keep all of the available stones in that variety, with each stone residing in its own small velour pouch just like the ones that we give with the stones that we sell.  The difference with these pouches is that they are all a pale yellow color.

Inside each pouch with the stone is a small piece of paper that has a number written in black Sharpie. The number is the item number for that stone (If it is Amethyst Palm number 5 the paper will simply have the number 5 on it). That paper is placed so that the number is positioned facing toward the outside of the pouch. The reason that all of the pouches are light yellow is that that it is the only color pouch available which allows us to read the black number directly through the pouch.

So, I pulled the 9 stones ordered by our client in Canada. I exchanged the yellow pouches for the more nicely colored ones, and put the yellow ones back to use again for more store items.

Then, I checked all of the stones against their pictures on the website. This, in theory, is not necessary, but usually about once a year there will be a problem related to us having made a mistake labeling a stone in one of the yellow pouches. It takes time to do the checking, but it is worth it not to be embarrassed by and having an unhappy client by sending him or her the wrong stone.

A worse problem occurs, luckily infrequently, when a client orders a stone which turns out to apparently not exist…. most likely due to a client having visited the house, buying a stone listed on the website, and us forgetting to remove it from the store listing.  That is very embarrassing for us and we are getting better at avoiding that one.

Anyway, after matching the ordered stones with their respective pictures and laminated information cards (Kathi does an awesome job creating these cards. They are both very beautiful and extremely informative), I then proceeded to pack everything for shipment to Canada.

Each stone is bubble wrapped in its velour pouch, and all of the stones and cards are packed with lots of protection in an appropriately sized box for mailing.

We also are i the process of having advertising for the website placed on the back of our car. At one point I had to talk to the provider doing that job in order to discuss a couple of issues. Then I signed, scanned and mailed back the authorization for the job.

We have another client in Canada who has been with us since Day One, and besides having a large box to mail for him yesterday, he had asked for about another 30 stones and I started working on that order.  He buys only the best of the best, and trusts us to select stones for him sight unseen.

After Kathi printed up our mailing labels, we went to the post office and mailed off the two boxes to Canada.

After we got home, I did a little more work communicating with our Canadian friend about his order in progress, and by then it was about time for dinner.

Even though we mailed out well over $1,000 of orders yesterday, by the end of the day I felt as if I had gotten nothing accomplished.

Hopefully, today, I will get more stones photographed and ready to go up in the store and Kathi will have time to work on more of her wonderful information cards besides printing and placing auction number labels on each of the 157 plastic bags containing our current eBay listings.

Website Upgrade

We just finished a significant upgrade of our KathisKrystals.com website.

Although Kathi has handled upgrades on her own in the past, there was so much that needed to done this time that we hired a web developer for the job. We got lucky and picked a real pro.

Undergoing such a process with a website that is as important to us as is this one is, well, stressful to say the least. We have something like 40,000 photos on the site, and even though we always maintain backups, one just never knows for sure until the new site is up and running smoothly.

We have had to change web hosts in the past due to poor performance, and we do everything that we can to insure that the site is safe, fast, easy to understand, and simple to navigate. We sincerely believe that we have one of the most elegant rock and mineral websites going, and hope that you enjoy browsing the incredible stones.

The upgraded site has many important new features, many of which you will not see, and many of which you will.

Besides the many technical improvements, there are several features which make the site more user friendly and simply more fun. These include:

  • The inclusion of Social Media in order to provide a more interactive nature to the site.
  • The addition of this blog in order to provide more frequent and more in-depth communication to our clients.
  • When looking at the various stones, the coolest new feature has to be what is called the “Lightbox”. When clicking through to one particular stone (on what we call an item page), if you click on any of the thumbnail photos of the piece, an enlarged picture will quickly open up in a very pretty window against a darkened background. Further, if you then click anywhere on the left or right side of that enlarged photo, the feature will immediately switch to the previous or next picture in the grouping.
  • On any page where we show a list of all of the various offerings for one particular kind of stone (say Blue Lace Agate Palms), you now have the option of viewing that page in list or grid form. The default is set to list, but one quick click will change it to grid format if you so desire.
  • Also on those same pages, there is now a drop down menu so that you can order the offerings in different ways. This is much like how one can order searched items on eBay.
  • For our international clients there is a huge fix. Our previous shipping module, which is our connection to the U.S. Postal Service, did not offer First Class Shipping quotes for international orders… only Priority Mail which is prohibitively expensive for cross-border mailings. Our new module does offer International First Class shipping quotes.
  • The page is now wider for easier and more typical viewing.

There are other smaller changes which, we think, make the site more pleasing to browse and easier on the eye.

If you ever have trouble with the website or have any suggestions as to how it could be improved, please do not hesitate to let us know. We want your visit to Kathi’s Krystals to be as enjoyable as it possibly can be.