Tell us about yourself and your business! What do you do or sell?
We sell rocks, fossils, jewelry, Native American Indian wares etc. and we have a free fossil museum in the basement.
Why did you start this business? If you were a superhero, what would your origin story be?
Dave and Sandy, James' sister and brother-in law started the business 48 years ago as Dave had started to collected fossils at the age of 8 and wanted to share his passion with the general public. We bought the store from them 10 years ago and have enjoyed learning from Sandy and Dave.
After collecting fossils as a hobby for many years growing up, Dave Douglass opened Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop in 1970 at the age of 20 (with the help of his parents) at 1312 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. The shop contained minerals and fossils, mostly self-collected by the Douglass family.
One year later, Dave met his wife to be, Sandy, who shared his passion for rocks and fossils. They traveled extensively throughout the western United States, Canada, and Mexico on collecting and buying trips. The shop, along with their collection, began to grow... They began adding many new curiosities and unique items to the wares they carried in the shop back home. Among these were Native American jewelry and crafts, carvings from various locations around the world, and many other types of objects fashioned from minerals and fossils.
Over time, their private collection of fossils became quite extensive, growing to include some very rare and unique pieces. They felt that it should be on display for anyone who was interested in prehistoric life to enjoy. So in 1987 they moved to a larger shop down the street at 704 Main Street with a basement that was suitable for displaying the collection. One year later, The David and Sandra Douglass Prehistoric Life Museum opened to the public. It contains fossils from every geological time period going all the way back to Precambrian times some 3 billion years ago. Of special interest is the largest display of fossils from the famous Mazon Creek area here in Illinois, many of which Dave collected while growing up. Some of these fossils are even named after the Douglass family, as they were the first to discover the species. There are also fossils from around the world, including a complete cave bear skeleton from France, small dinosaurs from China, Amber with insects from Mexico, trilobites from the United States and Canada, and fossil crabs from Italy.
What's the story behind the name of your business?
Dave was the founder, and we think we are Down to Earth. We sell what often comes from the Earth or is created by Mother Nature.
What sets your business apart from others that sell the same products?
There are not many people selling the same products we have. I guess we are kind of lucky to find a unique niche.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business?
Do your market research. Make sure you choose a wise location. Being on the Main-Dempster Mile, you have a lot of privately owned business, instead of chain stores. I think that is one reason we chose to stay on Main Street when we expanded 3 years ago.