Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop Review – A Hidden Treasure on Chicago's North Shore

Let's go into Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop(Photo: B.Keer)

A friend of mine recently mentioned that she had taken her grandson to the museum at Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop.  I had no idea what she was talking about since I had been going to the shop off and on for more than twenty years.  I discovered that many of my friends also knew and loved the shop but did not know about the museum.  So, one lovely late fall day, Kay, Heddie and Agnes joined me for an in depth tour of the shop and museum lead by employee extraordinaire, Zach White.

Zach White was a great guide

Just a look through the window tells you many choices await you when you step in.  On either side of the door as you come through are book selections, mostly for younger people telling about fossils, rocks and so on.  The cases upon cases of beautiful colors catch the eye.  Polished stones, amber, jade, geodes, fossils, materials for making jewelry, Kachina dolls, turquoise, and more.

The most purchased gifts in the store

I have been in Dave’s many times and I admit that I saw the sign that said “Museum” and the arrow that pointed downstairs.  But each time with so much to explore upstairs, I never propelled myself downstairs.  What a mistake that was!  And how lucky I was to have a guide this day.

A 21,000 year old cave bear skeleton

When our group gathered, Zach lead us downstairs to the Museum. We looked around, amazed.  Heddie noted that it “is amazing how much is packed in.”  She especially liked the crocodile because it was unusual in its detail.  Kay never knew there was a museum and was just fascinated.  I was astounded to see fossils from all the major periods that included  one of the world’s largest carnivorous Dinosaur egg.  

Unbelieveable - the world's largest carnivorous dinosaur eggfossil

There was one astounding display after another that included; fossils that date back a billion or more years, the earliest from Australia (three and a half billion years old), a collage of 30 million year old insects in amber, the world’s third largest piece of red amber, an entire 21,000 year-old cave bear skeleton, and an Apatosaurus femur from Colorado dating from the Jurassic Period that came in one hundred pieces but has been put together and weighs 600 lbs.

The red amber is one of the largest in the world

The hundred pieces of apatosaurus femur were found in Colorado and put together

The area that I found most surprising was the case that contained unique fossils from Illinois. Three of these on display were named after the Douglass's. Before this visit I was not aware of the Mazon Creek area of Central Illinois, which is known to be a rich area for fossils.  I never knew that there once were Tully Monsters who lived there and that it is the only place in the world where they lived.

Tully Monster is only found in Central Illinois

Zach told us that Dave’s mother, June Douglass, took Dave on his first fossil hunt when he was 8.  From the website we learn that “While digging for fossils with her family, June found the first squid fossil, putting squids back 100 million years to the Pennsylvanian Period. It was named after her, and can be seen both in our in house museum and in our on-line museum.”  Dave continued to collect and when he graduated high school the collection was so important that it needed an area for public display and so, in 1970, the first shop opened on Chicago Avenue near Dempster.  He found items that had never before been discovered.  His early discoveries were from Illinois and later he traveled to the South West and other parts of the U.S. with his wife, Sandy.  On his travels Dave often located and brought back items his customers requested such as squash blossom necklaces, turquoise jewelry, Kuchina dolls, etc., and he brought more back to sell.  In a sense the shop took on a life of its’ own.  Soon the need for more space necessitated a move, and it was to 704 Main Street in 1987 at which time the collection came from many parts of the world, with some items  unerathed by Dave  and other items traded or purchased.

Look for the huge trilobite

Among the book collection in the shop, there is a wonderful Scholastic book called, Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop.  I gave one copy to my grandson and he loved it.  Evanston author, Stuart Murphy wrote this book based on Dave’s shop to help teach mathematics to children.

Hard to choose (Photo:B.Keer)

Heddie didn’t know about the museum in the shop but she knew about the main shop.  She makes jewelry and in her classes she was told that Dave’s carries special jewelry wire and fittings not found elsewhere.  Zach told us that, students at Columbia, the Art Institute, the Evanston Art Center, etc. who make jewelry come to Dave’s because it is the only place in the area that has the wire they need in stock.  Heddie added that she has been very impressed by the service she has received as a customer.  Sales people have been patient and knowlegeable which really helped her make selections.  

Select a necklace and have it strung

I learned that it is possible to select beads and have them strung at Dave’s.  In addition, Dave continues to travel the world and to try locating  items  such as fossils and stones that customers specially request.
Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop is, no doubt, unique in the world and we feel fortunate that it is a local resource.  Do visit and find out what you have been missing.  And when there be sure to see the newest area at the back of the shop-The Fossil Room.

The crinoids are beautiful

Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop and
The Prehistoric Life Museum
704 Main Street
Evanston, IL 60202
phone: 847  866 - 7374
fax: 847  866 - 6854
Follow the travels of Dave and family at:

Store Hours:
M, T, Thurs, F: 10:30 - 5:30
Sat: 10:00 - 5:00
Closed Wednesday and Sunday

Photos:  Agnes Dabrowska

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