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By Antoinette Rahn
Nearly 16 years ago, when Zoltan and Jody Matolcsy were just starting out as a married couple with dreams of transforming their shared hobby of rockhounding into a business, some may have thought it was a far-fetched aspiration. That’s ok; this dynamic duo has always been up for a challenge, and the way it has all played out, they were right to chase those dreams and follow their passion.
Today, the family business, Dig Maine Gems (DMG), is a bucket-list destination for many a rockhound, be they seasoned pros or beginners. Catching up with Zoltan, Jody, and their son and business associate, Tristan, as 2021 began, we learn how 2020 affected them, their business, and their ongoing effort to carry on Maine’s rich mining history and opportunities and share their knowledge with others.
Among the many things they learned during the unconventional year of 2020 was that “that people have had a huge desire to get out and try new and different things, especially when it is related to an outdoor adventure / educational experience during the pandemic,” the Matolcsys said. “We were witness to huge amounts of generosity for the type of experience we provide during our 2020 season, and 2021 is off to a great start with our new online store!”
If the Matolcsys were able to travel back in time to the heyday of mining activity on the property they own, once the bustling Ryerson Mine of South Paris, Maine, and share some of the things they are doing in 2021, the looks on the faces of the miners might be shock and confusion.
Leading people on dig adventures, selling stones they dug, carved and cut, and transformed into jewelry and art through a newly developed online store (that concept alone may blow their minds), are some of the many things they’re doing today in relation to the very property that benefitted generations of Maine residents more than a century ago. One person in particular who would revel in their success is Zoltan’s mother. Whether or not she had a crystal ball to see into the future of the property across from their homestead is unknown, but she had some visionary tendencies, it seems. Because before she died in 1982, she purchased a nearly 100-acre parcel of land, which was once part of the Ryerson Hill Mines and Quarry operation. The very place where a young Zoltan had watched miners come and go, working the mines day in and day out.
Today, the Matolcsy family bestows decades of geological knowledge and a legacy of mining activity when leading customers on digs and general visits to their property.
“The majority of people that come to us are rockhounds but are generally inexperienced. Our knowledgeable staff has a priority of sparking interest in our customers,” the family said. “Whether it is at our site, or on our trip to Mt Mica, we give a hands-on, fun, and informative education based upon rock collecting and the incredible world that gems and minerals reside within.”
Another new development for Dig Maine Gems was a new space of operations. The increased visibility they now have from the road played a large role in the increase in customer traffic in 2020, they explained. Although they don’t keep clear-cut records about the number of people that visit Dig Maine Gems each year, they did report noticing a considerable increase in traffic to their location and a slightly small decrease in crowds participating in field trips, mainly due to the later start of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
For anyone looking for details about when the 2021 season begins at Dig Maine Gems, it’s best to keep an eye on their website, because the season begins as soon as the snow melts.
For Jody and Zoltan, who met over their shared interest in rocks, gems, and minerals (a match made in rockhounding heaven, which they call Maine), one of the best things to come from chasing their dreams is to have their children learn and share in their passion. The couple’s three youngest children have been involved in the operation over the years, and the two oldest children helped a lot when they were teenagers and have now moved on to careers of their own. However, the youngest, Tristan, age 24, is interested in making the Dig Maine Gems operation his career.
“We have always felt at DMG that if you follow your passion, have heart, and are genuine, success will follow.”
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