Chris Gensheimer was in advertising when his wife, Martha, and sister-in-law started a jewelry line called Earth Bones. The concept is Earth Bones represents jewelry from the earth, crystals, etc. Martha and her sister also painted anything they could get their hands on, including old mixers. They made almost all of their own product. The sisters eventually had so much inventory that they opened a brick and mortar store in 1988.
It wasn’t until Martha’s sister moved to Hawaii and opened an Earth Bones store on Kauai, inspiring Martha to expand the business, that Chris quit advertising and started working with Earth Bones.
By the time they opened the first Earth Bones in Sundance Square, there were three locations across the Metroplex. That was more than 20 years ago.
Earth Bones is tucked away on Main St. across 3rd from the Sundance Square Plaza. The unique gift shop just a few steps away from Razzoo’s offers dream catchers, adult mad libs, candles, gag gifts, charity bracelets, humorous socks, greeting cards, journals, ties, clothes, shoes, children’s books, sassy coffee mugs, and of course, handmade jewelry.
The mugs might insult you, and some of the greeting cards may not be suitable for a proper Southern grandmother, but if you shop with a sense of humor, you’ll enjoy yourself immensely.
“It’s a space where I want people to come in and have a good time. I want people to laugh in Earth Bones,” Chris says. “We try to be a little edgy, but not too much because this is a family environment.”
A Time for Transition
At some point Martha grew weary of retail and started her own company. “But we’re still together,” Chris adds with a chuckle. “People always assume that, because she started her own thing, we split up. We didn’t.”
When Martha left Earth Bones, Chris knew he didn’t want to run three locations all over the metroplex so he opened Retro Cowboy in Sundance Square and added the Sid Richardson Museum Store to complete his retail collection. He still operates three stores, but they’re all in Sundance Square instead of being scattered all over the place.
It’s all about stability.
Chris was an “Air Force brat” (his words) and, like most military families, moved a lot. As an adult, he has spent years maintaining as much “sameness” as he can. “I’ve had the same bank for 20 years. I’ve had the same credit card processor for 20 years. I live in the same house and have the same business. I’ve added to it, but it’s the same retail business.”
He goes on to say, “Being downtown is extremely comfortable for me. Going home to the same house I’ve been in for 20 years is comfortable. I’m a brick and mortar store. I’m old school. That’s the business model I know. I have a relationship with Sundance Square and that’s a good relationship to have.”
The Value of Business Relationships
Chris is a self-described personable person. Relationships are important to him. “The relationships I have downtown are important to my success. I like being downtown because of Sundance Square, what they have to offer, and the Plaza, but forging a relationship is key to business. Lots of folks who do business in Fort Worth feel that way. Fort Worth is a great town. The best business model for me is to not be in other markets. I’ve worked hard to be in one place and make it work because of the relationships. Believing in a space is good to help you get through the ups and downs of slow months or the downtime that comes with construction.”
The relational aspect also carries over into his stores. “There’s a policy in my stores that we talk to customers about who they are and where they’re from,” Chris explains. His old customers seek him out during Main St. Arts Festival. Some people have even pulled out a coupon he produced years ago. It’s still in their wallet. (Nostalgia?) Others will show him a t-shirt they bought at Earth Bones that they still have. The relationships he has with his customers outlasted the location changes.
Earth Bones’ History with Sundance Square
Twenty-two years ago, Sundance Square called and asked if Chris wanted to open up shop. He did. Sundance offices were in the Burk Burnett building then, and at the meeting with Chris they pulled out a big board, a mockup of what would one day be the plaza. It was the first concept. Chris looked at it and said, “I want to be a part of that.”
That’s what got Earth Bones to Sundance Square. Chris originally looked at the space where the current Visitor’s Center is at 508 Main. At that point there were only a few other retailers. He opted for the space where Tervis is now. “It was a great first store to have in Sundance Square.”
That first downtown Earth Bones location was across the street from the land and title building, which is now Bird Cafe but used to be the Flying Saucer. In those days, Chris would walk to Flying Saucer and have a beer before heading home. “Now I eat my lunch in the pavilion. I love Sundance. I think about Sundance Square every day of my life. It’s part of what we do.”
Stop by Earth Bones, Retro Cowboy, or the Sid Richardson Museum Store and meet Chris Gensheimer. He’s a friendly guy and could tell you anything you want to know about Sundance Square… or Fort Worth for that matter. He’s not going anywhere.