Dozens of gem and mineral dealers from across the country set up shop last weekend to show off their wares at the 22nd annual Leaf Lookers Gemboree held at the Macon County Community Building.
From Oct. 14 to 16, Macon County visitors seeking the beauty of the fall foliage were also able to look upon the multitude of brilliant gems and jewelry at the event. Collectively, the Gemboree dealers displayed a wide variety of finished jewelry, rough and cut gems, lapidary equipment, minerals, fossils and collectibles.
“I look forward to coming to this every year. You never know what you’re going to see,” said county resident Sandy Hopkins last Saturday. “There are great prices on things you wouldn’t see in any other parts of the world.” Hopkins, an admitted “gem enthusiast,” pointedly used a display of Rainbow Obsidian she was looking at as an example. “This kind of gem is a volcanic mineral and it’s rare to see it around here.”
The reception of the turnout was mixed for Gemboree vendors, some of which had made less-than lustery sales throughout the weekend.
“It’s a fierce time,” said Roberto Banos, of Mexican-based gem dealer Artesanics de Jalisco. “There are not a lot of people to see [our products] here.”
Local dealer Liz Cook, like neighboring Banos, commented that their display locations across 441 from the community building may have put a damper on sales.
“It’s slower now than it was earlier,” said Cook, of Franklin-based Twisted Notions. “There are more people going across the street. That’s the nature of retail and you have to find your niche, and times are tough.” Cook along with her husband Victor, were both glad to support the local gem market and impressed with the turnout, despite the tough economic times.
However sales were also slow for some Gemboree vendors across the road.
“It’s slow for the most part,” said Frank Bennett, from Cincinatti- based Crystal Connection. “We might not come all the way back here if sales don’t pick up.”
Other dealers had a more positive outlook on their overall sales.
Anne Kelley, of Charlotte-based Pak Designs, boasted of the consistent sales she made each year at the event. “We come to all the shows here every year and we’ve never had a bad show—ever,” she said, adding that Pak Designs has attended every gem show in Macon County for the past 12 years. “Some of our clientele comes to see us every year. You just have to know your market.”
“Business is good,” said Steve Michi, of Kissimmee-based Steven Michi Jewelry, whose assortment of hand crafted shell jewelry made consistent sales throughout the weekend. “We have had many come look and some buy.”
Overall the show was a small success, with ticket and booth sales covering overhead costs, according to Franklin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Harbuck.
“Attendance was low and it was not one of our best shows,” said Harbuck. “But it was a success. We made enough so that we didn’t lose any money. We had about 1,000 in attendance during all three days.” Harbuck attributed the low attendance to the down economy. “Times are tough all around.”