Our History

Who we are...



Minerals Unlimited was begun in a back storage room in 1948 by two  married couples, Dave and Irene Grigsby, and Scott and Mimi Williams.  Dave and Scott had recently graduated from UC Berkeley, and both were  avid mineral collectors, with houses overrun with boxes and shelves of  minerals. Almost as a whim, they decided to start a mineral business  (What are we going to do with all of these rocks?) at the time when  there were no other businesses of this type on the northwest coast.

In 1953 Ralph E. Merrill was hired by the partners, and bought out  their shares in 1954 and 1955. Scott and Mimi had divorced, and Mimi and  Ralph eventually married. They each had children before that, and then  had two more in 1956 (Wendi/Ace) and 1957. Ralph's main interest was  more in  the rare species, rather than just in showy specimens, so that was the  direction he turned the business as time went on. At one time or another  all seven of their children have worked as employees for the firm, as  well as Ralph's sister and her children, but  eventually all except Wendi (aka Ace) found careers in other fields.  Ralph worked continuously at the shop until his death in November of  2001, at nearly 84 years old, making Minerals Unlimited a landmark in  the mineral world.

The business was started in Berkeley, California, but eventually the  property that it was located on was purchased by the city for a  renovation project. The business was moved to our current location in  the California desert at 127 N. Downs St. in Ridgecrest in 1970. Five train boxcars  and two moving vans were used to move over 100 tons of specimens!

Our stock of minerals has been obtained in a number of different  ways. Some was personally collected by each of the successive owners, as  well as by occasional employees. Some was traded for, some purchased  from other businesses, as well as from individuals who sold minerals,  and some came from a number of personal collections. Much of the stock  was acquired early on, and in recent years we have only added newly  described species to our stock.

I am Wendi "Ace" Elkins!, and I have worked at Minerals Unlimited since I was eight years  old, going onto the payroll officially when I was 16, and I have been  here almost all of the time since then. I took a year off when I was 19  to work for Si and Ann Frazier, who started a split-off business from  Minerals Unlimited in about 1960, when Ralph and Mimi got out of the  lapidary aspect of the field. As of January 1st 2003 I am the sole owner  of Minerals Unlimited.  I have added a gift shop to the store, and use many of our specimens in my jewelry as a creative outlet.

The picture is my father in the back yard of the shop.

Mimi worked at Minerals Unlimited steadily until the mid-1970's when  she went back to college and eventually taught at California State  University in  Bakersfield for several years, retiring in 1994. She continued to assist  the business with her writing skills for many years, while writing  articles for our local newspapers, as well as poetry and personal  journals.  She died in 2014 at the age of 88.

Our clientele is quite varied, we provide mineral specimens to  collectors, schools and research companies. I look forward to supplying  you with specimens, and to your comments.

I am mourning my husband, Dan Elkins! who died in December, 2018.  After being a staple of my life for 35 years, he will be missed forever.

I do NOT plan to close the business, but I would like to sell it. Any serious buyer who wants a really great rock and mineral inventory should contact me.
Ace (Wendi) Elkins!

Ralph Everett Merrill

Ralph Everett Merrill