Crystals shine in Mount Shasta City for seekers on spiritual quests
As the gentle sounds of chirping birds, music from wooden flutes and gurgling streams enveloped Maria Melara, the soft-spoken mom from Los Angeles looked at the tiny, glittering pyrite stones in her shopping basket.
The stones clear "negative energy," according to Melara, who'd come to the small town of Mount Shasta in November with her family and stopped at one of the community's half-dozen crystal stores.
Melara began reading books about crystals and their properties nearly two decades ago, during a time when she felt an emptiness in her life. After turning to crystals for their professed beneficial and mysterious powers, she said, she no longer feels empty.
"I don't know what helped me, but I feel different now," Melara said. "It's so interesting, that in colors and stones, you can find healing."
With uncertain times brought by the coronavirus pandemic and the ubiquity of social media and internet shopping, crystals are now in vogue, those in the industry say.
In Mount Shasta, crystals are firmly connected to the town's identity.
Some Mount Shasta businesses have been selling crystals for many years, according to Laurie Baker, general manager of the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association and CEO of the Redding Tourism Marketing Group.
"It's just what Mount Shasta's known for — healing arts, the mythical part of all of it, that it's a sister mountain to Mount Fuji in Japan. It's been a big part of the attraction of people going to Mount Shasta," said Baker, who directed the region's tourism efforts for more than a dozen years. "As you add stores and you add vendors, you add attractions, the city becomes known for it."
Crystals are now 'everywhere'
Like Melara, some admirers of crystals say the earth-forged elements carry powers based on the energy they emit. Amethysts relieve stress, according to the lore, while black tourmaline blocks bad energy, clear quartz aids concentration and citrine helps cultivate confidence and brings abundance.
Scientific studies haven’t verified any supernatural or healing properties, although a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2017 concluded that 42% of all U.S. adults believe “spiritual energy can be located in physical things.”
Whether for their visual beauty or their believed spiritual energy, crystals have become part of an estimated $2.2 billion psychic services industry in the U.S., according to market research firm IBISWorld.
Even though the pandemic was expected to dent the $76 billion diamond industry by 20% last year, the value of near-gemstones including quartz, amethyst, citrine and malachite were predicted to hold steady, according to a 2020 Bloomberg report.
That's because the wealthy weren't expected to purchase as many pricey gems due to virus fallout. But people of more modest means, the report said, were projected to favor "emotional gifting" in times of trouble by continuing to buy less expensive crystals.
Tapping into the trend, retailers ranging from bargain-minded Target and home goods store Bed, Bath & Beyond to upscale Restoration Hardware are now selling crystals.
"We’re seeing them everywhere," said Jerome Rogowski, head of Aum & Garden, who has followed the industry as the owner of a 24-year-old store in Sherman Oaks. He estimates that between 50% and 75% of the shop's sales are driven directly by crystals.
"It's no longer like a 'woo woo, out-there' kind of object to acquire as a gift or have in your home," said Rogowski. "It's more common to see crystals and everyone is understanding more about crystals."
Whether or not a shopper affirms that crystals possess metaphysical properties, the objects appeal to many tastes — from the alluring to the whimsical.
"They're just a really cool thing that comes from this planet, no matter what you believe in spiritually around them," said Lisa Mack, owner of Juniper Stones Gallery in Redding. "There's just so many people who want to surround themselves with beautiful objects."
Juniper Stones Gallery moved in early September from busy South Market Street, where cars mostly whizzed by, to a prime walkable location in the heart of Redding's newly revitalized downtown. The three-year-old shop sells other spiritual products, according to manager Taylor Putnam, but crystals comprise the majority of sales.
Seeing opportunity, independent Redding grocery Orchard Nutrition Center about six months ago began carrying crystals and related books.
"I recognized that people love them and are interested in them," said Orchard's Jill Matthews, who orders crystals for the store, as well as health and beauty products. Selling crystals, she said, is "another thing that benefits people's lives, to help them feel more healthy and whole."
While Redding might be a newbie to the crystals scene, the New Age allure of Mount Shasta has for years intrigued travel writers and other visitors.
The community is located just a few miles from the iconic mountain of the same name that's believed to have mystical powers. New Age devotees consider the mountain a “spiritual vortex," a healing mecca where high-frequency spiritual energy may be easily experienced.
A host of Mount Shasta entrepreneurs have built business around crystals and related metaphysical products and services. At least six crystal shops operate in the city, all within a few blocks.
The Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce's website even devotes a section to companies offering "spiritual tourism." The trade group features information about "the power of the mountain," right up there with the area's more conventional lodging, shopping, dining, medical services and senior living industries.
According to the chamber, the city is home to numerous alternative health practitioners, psychics, metaphysical businesses and nonprofit organizations and spiritual teachers who guide visitors on spiritual quests.
Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kaila Burns said crystal establishments "are always coming and going . . . it is a big thing here."
'Follow your heart'
Just off Mount Shasta's main drag is the rustic, one-room Crystal Matrix Gallery. It's crammed with crystals, gems and fossils that are presented in displays around the room and on shelves lining the front windows.
"This month has been good for me," said store owner Mazebah Taahn, who said his customer base keeps growing.
When people visit the store, he said he advises against shopping with a checklist and instead encourages customers to investigate items that attract them.
"How about you follow your heart?" he said. "If you feel like, 'OK, this thing caught my attention,' let's see if there's something to celebrate here."
A few streets away, at the expansive Soul Connections store, some visitors examine crystals displayed along the wall. Other shoppers sit on the floor, leisurely reading books about angels, yoga, natural health or spirituality. In another section of the store, a customer uses a mallet to gently coax reverberating sounds out of a gong.
Behind the counter, there's a high-energy, petite woman known for her love of purple. Everything she wears — her beret, jewelry, crushed velvet top, leggings and fuzzy slippers — is purple. She's store owner Catherine Vergeer-Catlin.
Running this store, she says, takes "10 hours a day, seven days a week" even though crystals often evoke visions of serenity, meditation and quiet contemplation.
Vergeer-Catlin and her husband Bruce Catlin opened Soul Connections in 2003 after moving from Montana to Mount Shasta to join its well-known spiritual vibe.
The couple also runs the 26-acre Jewel in the Lotus Mount Shasta Retreat Center about a mile away from the retail store, which has expanded into what Vergeer-Catlin calls a "New Age one-stop shop."
The store carries all things spiritual, including crystals, cards, meditation music recordings and jewelry. To better accommodate their selection of instruments, clothing and books, the couple plans to expand the existing store into adjoining spaces.
The expansion comes after sales of their various items rose 25% from last year, above the 10% to 15% levels seen in a typical year, Catlin said.
Rather than escalate competition among the city's New Age retailers, Catlin said Soul Connection's growth is attracting more people to Mount Shasta, so everyone benefits.
Especially in these "uncertain times" he said, "it's increased our business every year because more people are looking for spirituality and spiritual tools to use on their journey."
From 'weird' to TikTok sensation
The state of affairs is a little different a few doors away at Shasta Rainbow Angels, a sun-drenched shop where Mount Shasta's snow-covered peaks are perfectly visible from the front door.
Among the items sold are crystals, jewelry, sound healing tuning forks, spiritual books and elegant, clear glass decanters featuring sealed, suspended vials to be filled with crystals. Energy from the crystals is infused into the water, said store manager Katt Padula
Japanese spiritual teacher and entrepreneur Keiko Anaguchi has owned the store since 2003, said Padula. Before international travel restrictions brought about last year by COVID-19, Anaguchi regularly brought visitors from Japan to Mount Shasta for spiritual retreats, tours and education programs. Those visitors shopped at the store.
No retreats happened in 2020 or this year, said Padula. Sales are down by about two-thirds from the average summer, she said.
Business has also changed in other ways during the past decade, Padula said.
They're selling items online through Etsy, Amazon and their own website. Local customers, including tourists from Redding, are coming in.
And more people are embracing crystals.
When Padula started working at the shop in 2010, the store's spiritual aspect was seen as "weird." Now, it's considered trendy, with social media having a lot to do with that attitude shift, Padula said.
"On TikTok, all I see are crystals and spirituality," said Padula.
'Sanctuary of living consciousness'
Another of the city's oldest crystal businesses, The Crystal Room/Crystal Tones at Mt. Shasta, consists of eight rooms. Each contains crystals, some small enough to carry in a pocket, others nearly the size of a mini fridge.
The shop has been tucked in its location off North Mount Shasta Boulevard for 21 years, said General Manager Wendy Warnick.
The store opened after owner, former interior designer Beverly Wilson-Hoffman, was contacted by a woman with a truckful of amethysts from Brazil, according to Warnick.
The owner reported being "guided" to open a shop, Warnick said.
That modest storefront has grown over the years to include an inventory of crystals, paintings, crystal-imbued singing bowls and crystal-related books that are spread over the 100-year-old building's 2,600 square feet.
Their customers range from seasoned collectors to those who've never bought a crystal before. Teens tend to be in the market for inexpensive tumbled stones costing less than $5 each. Other specimens from the earth carry heftier price tags.
Not all the store's items are even for sale, including a stone-topped bench that's cool to the touch and some of the standout larger pieces. Warnick describes the store as a "beautiful sanctuary of living consciousness."
One of the larger formations displayed on a shelf "likes to be rocked," she said, gently rocking the dark, gleaming stone.
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.