Galen Treadgold’s GeoInteriors is a Labor of Love

“If you can open the door the whole way, then you have more room for rocks,” smiles Galen Treadgold, the owner of GeoInteriors, a company focused on rock and mineral sales with a mission to support charities located in Houston, Dallas, and international locations.  Treadgold’s business began with a love of rock and mineral collecting and has grown over the past 20 years, reaching a peak of 38 metric tons (~84,000 pounds) of rock in a single sale in 2012. 

Treadgold manages GeoInteriors in addition to working as a full-time geophysicist.  With nearly 40 years of experience in oil and gas exploration, Treadgold is currently the Managing Director at AMNI International Petroleum Resources in Spring, Texas.  Although Treadgold says that the majority of skills he uses as a geophysicst are distinct from those he utilizes as a small business owner, he provides a model for how a successful geoscience career can co-exist with entrepreneurship. 

Labor of love
“It’s a labor of love,” says Treadgold of his role as owner of GeoInteriors. Treadgold started the ‘labor’ in 1999 while he was working for ARCO on a joint venture with Petrobras.  Treadgold visited a rock shop outside Rio de Janeiro on his first business trip to Brazil and says he was amazed by the large and beautiful pieces of amethyst, quartz and tourmaline.  He shipped back several thousand pounds of decorative stone to his home in Dallas.  Thrilled with his first purchase, Treadgold started bringing back 8,000 – 10,000 pounds of rocks and minerals every four to six months.  He has continued to grow his business and now sources material from rock and mineral shows, primarily the Tucson show. 

The “love” part of the company—requiring a donation to a charity with each purchase—started in the mid-2000s.  Treadgold realized that charities could benefit from his work, so he began to require customers to add an additional 10% on their purchase price as a charitable donation.  “I was uncomfortable making money on friends, but someone needed to benefit from the amount of work involved.”  Customers can choose which charitable organization to support, and they are required to make a separate payment to their chosen organization at checkout.  The geophysical and geological societies of Dallas and Houston are longtime beneficiaries of the GeoInteroirs sales.  Recently, Treadgold has added non-profits that are of special interest to his volunteers: the Alzheimer’s Association, Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services, and Trinity Ablaze that supports vision health in Kenya.  GeoInteriors has raised over $430,000 in charitable donations since inception.

Building a business, step-by-step
Treadgold says that he is not an avid risk-taker.  He grew the business by making incrementally larger purchases.  Treadgold’s largest purchase was 38 metric tons (~84,000 pounds) of rock, but he has since scaled back operations.  “Even 20 tons  is a big job” says Treadgold.  “I’m moving to a smaller scale that doesn’t require forklifts or giant warehouses,” he says. 

The business has evolved over the past 20 years to focus more on useable rocks, such as lamps, table tops and bowls.  “I’m always looking for new ways to sneak rocks into the house,” laughs Treadgold.  He says that he relies on input from customers and volunteers to guide procurement decisions.  For example, he recently starting to source meteorites and fancy trilobites.

GeoInteriors has no routine overhead, instead sourcing trucks and warehouses as-needed to support sales in Houston and Dallas.  Treadgold also relies on volunteer labor for purchasing trips and to manage the logistics of transportation and customer sales.  “Our goal is to always be cheaper than any rock shop and our pricing is usually 50-75% less than the brick-and-mortar folks.  The catch is – we’re only open a few weekends a year so it’s a bit of a feeding frenzy when we have a sale.”

Love for logistics
The skills Treadgold uses for GeoInteriors are different than those he uses as a geophysicist.  “It’s a nice change of pace to put one thing down and then do logistics,” he says.  Treadgold explains that he enjoys solving logistical problems, such as how to aggregate and transport purchases made across the 23 separate venues that comprise the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil showcase.  “I really enjoy it when I have a quarter million dollars of delicate fossils and minerals arriving in a truck, and I don’t have any way to unload it,” he laughs.

Treadgold says he also enjoys the “thrill of the chase” involved in negotiating with suppliers.  He explains that most customers at rock and mineral shows can negotiate for 50% off a marked price, but he can get a 70-80% discount based on the volume of merchandise and the long-standing relationships he has developed. “When you spend $60,000 with one dealer, you have their complete attention when you show up the next year,” he adds. 

Going forward
Treadgold says he plans to focus on smaller, under 10,000-pound purchases for future sales.  He anticipates hosting a sale in Dallas in October 2024, but doesn’t have a time frame in mind for future Houston shows.  He also anticipates delegating more responsibilities to volunteers, as he plans to spend more time on a new G&G focus – Golf and Granddaughter!