High atop of the seventh street hill on the West side of Duluth is a spectacular view of the city, where a row of houses are nestled snugly into the hill. Inside one of these houses there lives a man in a button down green-plaid shirt, faded blue jeans coupled with a gentle smile who goes by the nickname “the prospector”.
He works in the basement at his business The Complete Rock Shop. Frank Chida quickly brushes past strings of polished rocks hanging above the work bench. With jars, boxes and plastic bins holding assortments of stones and hand crafted stone jewelry pieces. He expertly winds through the workshop, promptly walking up the narrow stairs and through the upstairs kitchen. Chida is the prospector not only for his love of rocks and the earth, but his general outlook on life, but most people just call him Frank.
It hasn’t always been The Complete Rock Shop for Frank who has lived in Duluth for over a decade. He lives and works in a house that is 103 years old. Despite the numerous hardships along the way, his business has been a dream 70 plus years in the making.
“At my age you’re not old anymore, you are ancient,” said Frank with a wheezy laugh.
Frank settled into the sofa comfortably crossing his slipper covered feet. With a big toothy grin on his face, it quickly becomes apparent he is quite nimble at 81 years old and his energy is evident as he tells his story.
Frank has always loved rocks and the earth. In high school his favorite subject was geology. After graduating from college with a degree in geology, Frank and his friends decided to travel out west.
“Nowadays that isn’t possible especially with the economy,” said Frank.
Frank returned home to Virginia, Minn. after his travels.
“I will never forget that day my mother handed me a letter. It was Friday the 13th of 1940. In the letter, it said greetings. Back in the day greetings meant you were being drafted into the services.”
Frank joined the Air Force because they were the heroes of the sky. On January 6 of 1951, Frank returned home, got married and started a family.
“I bought a nice rock tumbler at some point and used it, but once the kids were born I had to get rid of it,” said Frank.
His priorities changed, and he became a family man as a father of five. Frank worked countless odd jobs because there was no market or interest for rocks in the 1940s and 1950s, but every job he worked dealt with some element of the earth. He has worked jobs at the U.S Steel Company, Erie Mining Co. During the time of the strikes happening in the Iron Range, he worked on a clamming boat in the Pacific, several furniture companies, and piping companies.
He sacrificed his dream all in pursuit of making ends meet. After his first wife passed away, Frank married Shirley in 1988.
“I knew God put her in place for me," he said.
Frank was a manager, co-business partner, sales associate and many other titles. However, in each job he had, he did well and each successful post was terminated. Frank would tell them, “you can’t fire me, I quit ten minutes ago.”
“I was over qualified even though I didn’t know nothing about anything, and had to learn a new trade about once every ten years,” Frank said.
He held a number of positions where he was a co-partner in a business and would never see a penny of his share. Frank said the truth was he was better because of it and it led him to crafts fairs and doing what he is most passionate about: rocks.
“I learned my greatest treasures have been the people I meet and become friends with at these crafts fairs.”
Frank started doing crafts fairs in 1992, after visiting Arizona, which is rich in silver and many other minerals. He purchased some raw materials to use to start his business.
“My mother (Rose Chida) is a wonderful woman who loved arts and crafts. She is the one who got me into it. My first show was in Park Point,” said Frank.
“I’ve lived a great life, and that is my adventure story,” said Frank with a wink and a toothy smile.
Frank Chida the Rock Man of Duluth - Detective Extrodinaire
Frank Chida - The Rock Man of Duluth tells the story about the 100 year old rare cactus spines. Frank was able to deduce the age of the cactus after finding an antique discontinued lead bullet embedded into one of the spines.
Photographs and audio by: AshleyMarie Scheiller
A special thanks to Frank Chida and his wife Shirley Chida for letting me come into your home to take these photographs and get such a great story!