Inside a World of Wonder

Stories in Stones - Russ and Pam Shoemaker

The Story Behind One of Calaveras’ Iconic Businesses: Stories in Stones

The mountains east of Bakersfield aren’t the first place you might expect to find shark’s teeth, but that’s just what Russ Shoemaker did.  In fact, he and his wife Pam have found hundreds of teeth and other fossils buried in the ancient soils on their property in Kern county.   From that fortuitous discovery in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains many years ago, the Shoemakers  have spent a lifetime exploring the planet and collecting a mind boggling array of geological and biological wonders – many of which are on display and for sale at Stories in Stones in downtown Angels Camp.   Their business is also the recipient of the 2013 Innovations in Tourism Award for an outstanding retail experience.

They opened their first business in 1975 in Carlsbad, California, selling the fossils dug up on their property to retail customers, then discovered how much their customers were reselling the products – so they expanded to wholesale as well.  In 1980 a real estate developer friend of theirs invited them to see his newest project in the growing town of Murphys, and the Shoemakers instantly fell in love with the town and the Mother Lode region.  The following year, they moved their entire operation to the hills and began selling their products at a small table inside a miner’s market in downtown Murphys.  They shortly moved into the old general store at the corner of Algiers and Main (now occupied by SNAC), expanded their retail business and began to build a robust mail order business as well.


Today they have a well stocked wholesale warehouse and provide earth science related materials to shops all over the world.  As South American importers, they travel to Brazil to buy geodes, have the faces cut and polished there, fill a cargo container and have it brought to Angels Camp.

Russ is well known in earth science circles as a passionate expert who loves to share his knowledge of all things mineral.  The back section of the Angels Camp store is set up as a large classroom where he presents to school groups from all over the state, from first grade to graduate geologists.  He also does teacher orientation in the earth sciences and works with service clubs from all over.   He tries to cover all the bases of from the basic chemical elements, through development of minerals to the formation of all the Earth’s rocks.  You get the feeling that spending an afternoon in the back room of the store would leave you with a fairly solid understanding of how everything on our planet was formed.

As the economy improves, Russ and Pam are hopeful about the future and would love to expand their reach further out into the world, stocking even more product than they do now.   They feel they’ve been fortunate as years have past,  with nice articles written about them, professional recognition from geologic publications, videos made and circulated of Russ’ presentations and lots of visitors wanting to learn about the Mother Lode and geology in general.  Loyal clientele have kept them in business year after year.  As for their love of Calaveras County,  Russ says, “I don’t know of any other place we’d rather live…  we’ve traveled all over and we’ve never found a nicer place than the Mother Lode.”

Other places to get your gem and mineral fix in Calaveras County

Gem and mineral gift shops, cavern geology and cavern tours

California Cavern, State Historic Landmark
9565 Cave City Road
Mountain Ranch, CA 95246
866-762-2837 | 209-736-2708

Mercer Caverns
1665 Sheep Ranch Road
Murphys, CA 95247

Moaning Cavern Adventure Park
5350 Moaning Cave Road
Vallecito, CA 95251
866-762-2837 | 209-736-2708

Annual Calaveras County gem and mineral show

Snyder’s Valley Springs Pow Wow
1290 Paloma Road
Valley Springs, CA 95252

The world’s largest specimen of crystalline gold leaf 

Ironstone Heritage Museum
1894 Six Mile Road
Murphys, CA 95247

Also, be sure to check out Calaveras County’s museums which feature one of Calaveras’ most important geological components (and its California-shaping history). This gold-bearing quartz vein structure runs the length of the Gold Country, is known as the Motherlode and was the cause of the California Gold Rush.