BENSON — Rolf and Marie Luetcke are beyond pleased by their return to Sunshine Gallery and Gifts after a five-year hiatus.
That was more than evident during a brief visit with the couple at the rock and jewelry shop/art gallery/museum on the outskirts of Benson — or St. David — depending on how one looks at it. The facility, three miles from Benson off Hwy. 80, has a Benson address but St. David telephone number.
Rolf’s passion and exuberance is quickly apparent as he explains what’s what. A self described rock hound, Rolf was “immediately hooked,” in the 1970s after he’d sought to identify the bags of rocks he’d been given from a mining company geologist in Bisbee. That, he said, set off the lifelong interest.
Marie, too, is happy for the return. She is particularly fond of interacting with visitors but is also pleased the gallery has much to offer with regard to the history and geology of the area, an interest and appreciation she’d developed growing up in San Simon on the outskirts of rural Cochise County east of Benson.
Coupled with Rolf’s educational background in herpetology, entomology and natural history, and affinity for rock hounding, their union and business has been one made in Rock Heaven.
Sunshine Gallery and Gifts originally opened in 1985 and is as much educational in nature as it is gallery and gift shop.
Several rock specimens, turquoise, azurite, crystals, and more are displayed among a vast collection of minerals native to the San Pedro Valley, Cochise County and beyond. Those that react to ultraviolet or blacklight source are a particular favorite for visitors, especially school kids, Rolf notes.
Rows of jarred reptiles and time-period antiques are on display, to go with insect exhibits, coins and other collectibles.
The art gallery part of the operation occurred by happenstance, following the death of Rolf’s parents.
“... Dad did the painting, mom [Ursula Luetcke], the rug weaving and painted stones and gourds. My dad died about 10 years ago, my mom before him by about four years. They lived in Sedona for many years, where they had an art gallery and sold their combined work,” Rolf explained.
Attendance has been slow since the reopening in February 2018. “... Kind of like when we first opened, slow at the beginning, but most who stop come back,” said Rolf. “Now that the winter visitors are coming back to the area, business will certainly pick up.”
There’s a bit of everything in the gallery at 1313 S. Hwy. 80. A large yellow flag and a new sign marks the turn off the state highway. Call them at (520) 586-4560.