From Computer Geek to Spiritual Inquirer
By Tori Rubloff
Luis Melendez has a busy life tending to hundreds of children. And by “children,” he means his rocks, minerals and crystals.
Twenty-plus years ago, Puerto Rican-born Melendez moved from Palm Beach, Florida, to Gainesville, Florida, with his second wife Marianne and opened The Dragon’s Hoard L.L.C., a local pop-up and online shop that sells handcrafted jewelry and natural specimens, most of which are dug up from the earth by Melendez himself.
From the treacherous mountains of North Carolina to the diamond-sprinkled fields of Arkansas, Melendez has collected tales of adventure and spiritual awakening that would make your hairs stand on end. “I’ve had a couple of near-death experiences,” he said. “When friends want to go with me, I tell them, ‘You’ve got to bring a machete.’”
But his life was not always this risky. Melendez grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is a 1960s computer engineering graduate of the College of Staten Island. In order to take care of his first wife and two kids, he put his degree straight to work. He dabbled as an electromechanical engineer, a computer technician in Manhattan and a World Trade Center employee. But then he got burnt out.
“One day, I was so tired and went to sit outside on a bench. Somebody had left a little rock there. And me with my technical mind, I had to go home and find out about it. That was it. Little by little, I wound up here.”
Melendez does not see his job as work – it is a life-long pursuit of answering life’s big questions. “There’s a rock that makes stalactites and stalagmites. It also makes bone. So that rock is you,” he said. “I’ve been at this for twenty years. I still don’t know nothing…. Some questions don’t have answers. But I’m still asking.”