Gemstone Geniuses: The Agdanowski Brothers’ Rocky Road to Success
Join us on an extraordinary journey with Jonas and Dimitri Agdanowski, two young brothers who turned their passion for rocks and minerals into a flourishing business empire. Their story isn’t just about gems; it’s about ambition, family, and the vibrant heart of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.
- The Beginning: Discover how a childhood hobby overflowed into their lives, leading them to their first sales at local markets.
- Tucson’s Impact: Learn how the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show became a cornerstone for their business, providing them with unique opportunities and connections.
- Entrepreneurial Spirit: Be inspired by their entrepreneurial journey, from managing a burgeoning collection to opening multiple stores, all before reaching their 20s.
- Community and Connection: Delve into how their work reflects a deeper bond with the communities they serve, both in Michigan and beyond.
Eager to explore the full story of the Agdanowski brothers and their incredible journey? Check out the full transcript below and immerse yourself in the details of their adventure in the world of gems and minerals.
Moved by Jonas and Dimitri’s story? Want to learn more or share your own experiences with the transformative power of passion and entrepreneurship? Reach out to Tom Heath through our contact page and join the conversation. Whether you’re curious about the gem and mineral world or have your own tale of youthful ambition, we’d love to hear from you.
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTTT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your Downtown Tucson Community Sponsored all -volunteer powered rock and roll radio station. This week we’re going to speak with Jonas and Dimitri Agonowski, they’re brothers out of Western Michigan and they’re about to open their third rock and mineral store. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has been a huge part of their success and they started their business five years ago when both were teenagers. We’re going to get that fun and amazing story in just a few minutes. Today is February 4th, 2024. My name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the Inside track right here on
99 .1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio .org, also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. And if you want to interact with us on the show, we recommend you do that on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find out more information about us, past episodes, and details on our book by heading to our website, lifealongthestreetcar .org. And, of course, we invite you to listen to our podcast on all kinds of platforms like Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio, or you can just simply tell that smart speaker to play Life Along the Streetcar podcast, and you’ll get us. You’ll get us. Well, the Gem and Mineral Show is in full force. It’s multiple shows really that collide here in Tucson this time of year, and they start in January, they go through March, and the big push is for the next few weeks. I was over, kind of looking for some good information to share, and I think Visit Tucson has the best, most comprehensive guide, so I would recommend if you want to learn
more about what’s available, all the different shows and kind of what’s featured, the visittucson .org website and then just find Tucson Gem and Mineral Fossil Showcase, and you’ll see all of these. they’re all over town. Large chunks of them are in Tucson, the core here urban core, but there are many for you to see. Also wanted to remind you that last week’s show we talked to Suzanne Villella, and she did launch her anti card series featuring a deck of cards she crafted originals out of mixed media art, and they’re all on display in their original format just above our studio here at the Steinfeld Warehouse. You can check out our Facebook page or Tucson Gallery or Steinfeld Warehouse for more information on that show, but maybe some things to do while you’re out and about and suffering through our second little cold spell here. Well, the feature today is connected back to the Gem of Middle show and met these these young men last year actually through the Tucson Gallery. It’s Jonas and
Dmitri Agdanowsky, and I was completely amazed to find that they, at the ages of 13 and 15, launched their very own store in western Michigan. They’re actually out of South Haven, Michigan. It’s on the west coast there on Lake Michigan. And they were in Tucson for the Gem of Mineral show. I talked with them, and they talked with their dad and was fascinated by the story. So when they were coming back, we reconnected and had a chance to talk with Demetri and Jonas by phone to get the story of really how they got involved with this and what that journey has been like over the last five years and how Tucson fits in to that role. And so here’s our phone call recorded with Jonas and Demetri Agdanowski.
So we’re joined today by a couple of brothers out of Michigan that have come to Tucson with a not an unfamiliar story and that they’re a part of our gem and mineral show. They show up every year. I think what makes this this duo a little bit unique is that they’re they’re probably a little bit younger than a lot of our what we might expect as our collectors that are here in Tucson. But I want to welcome Dimitri and Jonas to Lifelong Streetcar. Hey, thanks for thanks for joining us. Now, where are the two of you at the moment because you’re in different you’re in different lines here. So are one of you in Tucson? Yeah, I’m in Tucson at the current moment. And then Demetri is back in Michigan. Okay, yep. Back up. Back in the cold. Well, we’re about to have a cold spell here in Tucson. So maybe it’s not, you’re not missing too much at the moment. And I don’t want to, I don’t want to spend too much time on the fact that you’re younger, because I think that diminishes how good of the quality
of the work that you do and what you put out because, but I do think it’s important that people understand that you got it, you both kind of got into this business at a very young age. I mean, can one of you kind of tell me about how that came about? So we kind of both started out with the hobby of collecting minerals and just rocks in general, pretty much since I can remember. And then it got to a point pretty much where our entire house was filled with rocks and we didn’t have a place to put them. So at the start, I mean, at our local yard sale, we would have rocks. And then we started seeing that, oh, people want these. So we started selling our personal collection at farmer’s markets and stuff. But then it grew so big, people started asking us, do you have a full store? store. So then we kind of got the idea that this could actually work with a brick and mortar store full time. From there, it just kind of grew into having two stores and looking for a third on the way. Wow. So, so about
what, how many, what year was this when you, when you maybe launched that first store? It’s been four years now. Okay. And then when you were out collecting, was this, I don’t know, I’ve got a sister, or she’s older, but we don’t share a lot of the same hobbies. Is it, if I, I find it interesting that both of you were so passionate about this, did you, did one kind of find it and lead the other into it or how did this, did you discover it together? Yeah. So my older brother, Jonas, he was the one that really started the hobby. Uh, and then I kind of got into it a little bit later, but I was still interested in it. Very cool. And so you’re, you’re in the Michigan area. Is that, are you in an area that’s like known for rocks? Or are there interesting rock formations or things that you found there that are more unique, that really attracted people? Or did you start traveling around to find things? So the area in Michigan that we’re in, southwest Michigan, geology isn’t that complex. For the
most part, the most you’re going to get is a couple of fossils, maybe some sandstones, limestones. But once you go up north, you know, you start to get the Lake Superior agates and other interesting minerals. And, you know, there’s a whole bunch of copper mines up there as well. So it really just depends on which area in Michigan you’re looking at. Okay. And so, Jonas, when you kind of, when you got started in this, was there an influence for you or was it something that you just sort of stumbled on? It was one of those things that, you know, as a kid, I was always interested, you know, just picking up rocks and stuff. And then as we developed, you know, met some other people who also collected rocks and,
know, joined a couple of the rock clubs in the local area. And I’m there, you know, I just fell further and further down the rabbit hole to where we are now pretty much. You’re pretty far down the hole. You got three, you got three stores and traveling all over the country here promoting it. So tell me a little about your family. They had to have been supportive of this. I mean, they had to spend some time with you to make this happen, right? Oh yeah, I mean, extremely supportive. I mean, you know, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of the store purchases or anything at all without any of their help. So, you know, it’s fantastic. So they inadvertently got themselves into the gem and mineral business. Is that kind of what happened? Yeah. Now they’re, yeah, yeah, we’re in it. We’re in it. So then, obviously, I’m from, you know, being in Tucson, I’m somewhat familiar with the broad reach of the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, but how does that get to you in Michigan? Is this something that
you sought out? Are you do travel around frequently? Is Tucson a stop or is it the main stop or just the only stop? Tucson is the main stop for pretty much every single person in America who is in the hobby. It’s the largest out of all the shows. The next one after this is Denver and it’s about maybe like an eighth of the size. Wow. I didn’t realize that. I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t realize it was that big. I guess when you’re here, you just sort of see it. And so then as, as you’re building out your business, then you’ve got what you offer in Michigan, you go up north, you find some of these more complex stones and now people have this, this appetite for it. So you, you, you mean, Will you just book a trip to Tucson and come out and start buying stuff? Um, well, yeah, pretty much for the most part. Um, the, the whole market here is, you know, you can get stuff that, you know, you can’t, you can’t really get in most places cause you have all of these dealers from all around the world.
You show up. So, so I mean, go ahead. I mean, go ahead. Well, no, no. I was just going to say so that when you’re,
when you’re out looking, do you look for something specific or are you looking for something you don’t recognize or something new? It really depends on what it is. Certain times you get information about finds that may be new or just come out and are debuted at this Tucson show. And a lot of times you end up searching for those or looking for good prices on those. but for the most part I mean you really just got to know where you’re looking. That is Jonas Agonowski, we’re talking with him and his brother Dimitri about their business and three stores locations now or about to be three locations and they come to Tucson every year to help fill their shelves and find interesting and unique products to send back. We’re gonna get to the second half that interview in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to lifelong streetcar and downtown radio 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtown
radio .org. Support for downtown radio is provided by the Tucson gallery located in downtown Tucson inside of the proper shops at 300 East Congress Street. The Tucson gallery offers original work, reproductions and merchandise from Tucson artists like Joe Patrick, Jessica Gonzalez, Ignacio Garcia and many more. For information about all of artists including when they will be live at the gallery. Head to the TucsonGallery .com or find them on Instagram and on Facebook as Tucson Gallery.
We’re going to go back in our interview with Jonas and Dimitri Akdanowski here and learn more about their history of how they got involved with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and and how they created their own business when they were teenagers back in Michigan. We’re going to kind of start off the next segment talking about that and and how that age plays into their business. Does it help? Does it hurt? And how does it impact? But two remarkable young men, Jonas and Dmitri Akdenovsky. Bear with me on this, but how old are each of you? Well, when the stores were first opened, it would have been probably five years ago. So I would have been 15 and he would have been 13. Yep. So even now it’s 19 and 17. So even now, 19 and 17, I mean, you’re out there talking to these people that are international gem and mineral dealers that have been doing this for decades. Do you find that being a challenge or does your knowledge kick in and they’re somewhat surprised or do they, they’re just like, just
show me the money and we got a deal? And so for the most part, yeah, it’s mostly, you know, if you just have the money, you know, they don’t, they don’t really care, but, uh, you do get underestimated quite a
bit, uh, by some of the dealers, I feel.
Are you like kind of maybe even excluded from some of the shows or like, you have to explain, Hey, no, this badge is real. I’m like, we’re supposed to be here. Not, I’ve never had any issues with getting into any shows for the most part. They’re pretty pretty open with that The only shows that are really restrictive are the you know, like the wholesale shows. So anything where you know, they don’t want the general public getting in for for that but For the most part. I mean pretty much anybody can go anywhere. There’s no real limiter Or where you can and can’t go for the gem show All right And then I saw on the on the website as is kind of researching it out and and help me out It’s Demetriodonstudios .net, correct? Yes. Okay, so we’ll get that link on our webpage. But it looks like, Jonas, you’re now, you’re studying at the University of Arizona? Yes, yeah, so I’ve been at U of A for a couple years now. I’ve got about a year and a half left on my degree. Well, that’s pretty cool. Did you
find that through the Gem and Mineral Show, or was that something separate that, I know we have a good reputation here, but was that coincidental, or was it intentional that you sought it out after kind of visiting here?
It was a little bit of both. Obviously being in Tucson is nice for the show, but U of A
is the number two in the country for their geology program, so that was the main motivator. Wow. And then Dimitri, what does your future hold? You’re going to be graduating soon. Are you heading into this field professionally, or do you see yourself going a different way? Maybe into something else? I’m either planning to go into geology as well or to go into business, mostly inspired by the experience I’ve given from running this store and all of that. Yeah, because you’re about to open your third store. You’d probably be pretty welcome at most business programs across the country. Tell me a little about the stores then.
They’re filled obviously with gems and minerals, but do they have specialties? Like does one store focus on one thing or do you just kind of just collect what makes sense for that area? So right now we do have certain stores that carry different products, like our Kentucky stores or stores, they carry like special Kentucky agates. Oh, so you’re outside, I’m sorry, you’re outside of Michigan. It’s not just like three stores in your area. You’ve moved to, okay. Okay. Yeah. So we have one store in Kentucky, one store right now in Michigan, but we’re opening our second one in Michigan as well. Okay. I’m sorry, I cut you off there. So your Kentucky one then is, is more specific to the, to that region? Yes. It’s in Northern Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati. So it’s in the Cincinnati metro area. So it’s more like a Cincinnati store. But yeah. So we carry Kentucky Yaggots that are particular to that area. And then in our Michigan stores, we carry the Petoskey stone, which is a local fossil that
is only found in that area. And it has a really cool pattern on it. Oh, cool. And then, as you’re stocking these stores, and we talked about the Tucson show being the largest, how does that impact your business? Somewhere from Tucson, then, we see this big influx of people and congestion and cars and traffic and hotel prices go up and and restaurants get harder to get into. And those of us that are in economic development and tourism, we’re like, yes, we need this. But how does this impact you? How can we help others understand the impact of the show? So it really helps us get stuff from all around the world. I mean, people from every continent, every country come to this show to trade and sell what they’ve collected. So what it allows us to do is it allows us to network with these people, these sellers and other buyers to be able to bring to our stores products that otherwise people could not get. I mean, if we had to go to every country to collect these things or talk to the miners directly,
it could never be feasible. Yeah. Yeah. Do you have a, do you have a favorite? Is it, is it gems? Is it minerals? Is it like, Like what is it that attracts you the most or does it matter? So I do more of the polish stuff. I do, I mean, polishing itself is called lapidary. I cut a lot of stones myself, but I’m also just fascinated with like how cutting works and the polishing process. So I do more of the polishing and finished goods like jewelry, but Jonas, he is more into minerals and can you talk more about the minerals and the science? So Jonas, tell us about the minerals. What is it that attracts you to the minerals? Well, I mean, when you think about it in its most basic sense, it’s nature’s form of art. So you kind of view it as an extension of that and you get a kind of a new view on all of these pieces because they’re just absolutely beautiful. Wow. This is just amazing to me that the two of you as brothers can find this. It’s like you have enough similarities to really drive this
business, but then your interests diverge enough that you can both specialize in something and create an even broader reach. Because one of you alone will probably have some success, but together it’s well more than doubled because you really can focus on your specialty, which really just enhances the opportunity for your customers in your, in your, in your community. I think it’s fabulous.
The, uh, the next steps for you. So you’re going to get this third store open. Do you have plans for world domination? Are you going to take a break after three stores and maybe focus on a college degree or something? Or are you like, you know what, we’re just going to keep going and growing and, uh, keep moving West. I think the plan is just keep going. All right. That’s the plan. I mean,
we’re getting to a point where we can afford to take time off from it to finish degrees or start a degree where it will run itself. So I mean, yeah, we are looking in towards a fourth or fifth store. I just, I mean, you have to imagine for someone of my generation to hear an individual about to graduate high school, letting us know that he has, he can step away from his successful business to go get a college degree. I just, I just find that absolutely amazing. And I, and again, I don’t want to harp on just the fact that you’re of this age because the, the quality, and I looked at some of the photos online at your website, your stores are beautiful. There’s such a variety. And I think the people in Michigan and Ohio and Kentucky are lucky that you’re there and bringing this to them. I would imagine there’s not a lot of competition for you in those markets. There is some, but it is not too much. And really, it’s one of those things where when every specimen is unique, it really isn’t competition.
It’s just really whoever has the nicer quality or can supply a nicer quality. Well, I got to tell you, I really hope people check out your website because there’s photos of you back when you were just kind of doing a yard sale or garage sale with everything and then actually doing the work and doing the mining and finding some of these things and polishing and all this stuff, it’s all through the website. And we’ll link it to it from our page, but how else do people like follow you? Do you have Instagram, social media, Facebook type things? We’re building up our base on Instagram and Facebook, but also we’re starting, when I was out in Tucson, just a week ago, we went out collecting ourselves. we went to collect chalcedony and fluorite. The fluorite was up near Phoenix. But so we got videos from that and we’re going to post stuff on YouTube about our actual collecting journey. Okay, well, as soon as that’s up, we’ll connect and we’ll definitely we’ll definitely share that. I’m hoping people
check out your website. And, you know, I appreciate you sharing not just your unique story, but also the importance of, of Tucson because, you know, this show being about that urban core and, and, you know, the gem shows a big part of that for several months out of the year. I think it’s really important that we, we see the reach of it, you know, that it is getting back to Kentucky and, and, and, and in Michigan, Ohio, those places are, are benefiting from, you know, from this, this experience here. So I really appreciate you sharing that too. Any kind of last thoughts or words as we, as we wrap up the reach of the Tucson show is, is much more than just the mainland United States. I mean, it reaches everywhere in the world. I mean, this is really the spot where everybody goes to sell, you know, gems and minerals. So, yeah, it’s a very impressive show. Demetri and Jonas, I really appreciate your time today. Thanks both of you for spending some time. I know you’re busy. Wow, what an amazing
duo. You know, truthfully, when I met them, when I very first met them, when I met their father, I kind of thought to myself, Maybe this was dad’s passion and and the kids were just sort of along for the ride and then in talking with them last year and then obviously after this interview you get the fact that these two these two young men are are really a driving force and it’s such a Such a bright future ahead of them. It’s gonna be amazing to see how they they continue this this growth My name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to life along the streetcar. We’re on downtown radio 99 .1 FM and we’re streaming on downtown radio org You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM Downtown Radio. I’m Brother Mock, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 3 p .m. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson and we give you a tasty taste of their music. If you want to check out what’s happening around Tucson, check out Radio Club Crawl Tuesdays
3 p .m. Right here on KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio. Thank you very much Enjoy your evening. Bye. Bye Well as we’re bringing an episode number 282 to a close I invite you to stick around on downtown radio for the rest of the day Rest of the week rest of the month and year coming up here at the bottom of the hour Ted Przelski with Words and Work. He talks to members of the labor movement, he talks to writers, and always a very good intellectual conversation with Mr. Przelski. And then we get into heavy mental with Ty Logan at noon. And just as a reminder, we did a story with Ty a couple years ago. It actually became a two -parter because he’s a very candid and open individual. You can find that on our website, at lifealongthestreetcar .org, and just put in Ty Logan in the search bar there, and it’ll pull up those episodes. And then we get back into the music today at one o ‘clock with SpeakerboxX. Good look at hip hop music, Tucson Scene really featured in there, and she does
a fabulous job with that. But stick around all day for great shows and music, and if you want more of the lineup, head over to downtownradio .org. You can see all the shows, remember they’re all volunteer DJs that really enjoy what they do and put together a just a great mix of music throughout the week and being volunteers we certainly rely on the kindness of strangers to keep us going here in the steinfeld warehouse broadcasting underground radio and we do that because we love it and we do that because you make it possible with your donations You’re underwriting and just your continued financial support. You can do all that on downtown radio org So listen Research and then you know throwing a little bit of cash every now and then to keep us Keep us rolling Next week. It’s a big game a big football game on Sunday. It’s a it’s a huge super deal there And I know a lot of you might be watching that Well, we’re gonna tie into the food theme by bringing in Shane Reiser of Tucson foodie talking
about his success with that Organization all the things they’re doing in a big two events that are coming up here in the next few weeks And we’ll get all those details with the Shane Reiser and of course if there’s something out there you want to hear about Tell us, you know, I had us up on Instagram Facebook email us contact at lifelong the streetcar org However, however, you want to get us that information. We’d love to know more by those of you that are in the know. Well, James Portis is our production specialist. My name is Tom Heath. I’m your host and producer. And as always, our opening music is courtesy of Ryan Hood. And today we’re going to leave you with some music that’s completely inappropriate on so many levels, but the title works. It’s Detroit Rock City because our guests are from Michigan, but they’re not from Detroit and their rocks are rocks and gems. They’re not rock and roll. and this is a violin quartet doing their Kiss tribute. But it was from 2004, it’s Detroit Rock
City. I hope you have a great week, and tune in next Sunday for more Life Along the Streetcar.