What’s Mine Is Yours: Ray and Val Talbert’s Love of Mining Unearthed a Gem: Tal & Bert Mercantile
By Reese Randall
January 26, 2021
Meet Ray and Val Talbert. The husband and wife-recreational miners-and-designers at heart team behind the business venture Tal & Bert Mercantile. Founded last February out of the love of natural minerals, the couple was just mining as a hobby. “Then, all of a sudden, our hobby grew so fast and spiraled into a business,” says Val. With the official grand opening this past November, the brick and mortar storefront in Dormont; with a studio and storefront in Sharpsburg has been a quintessential diamond in the ruff.
Using only raw and natural minerals in their designs, the Talbert’s crush real minerals into tiny, little pieces to create geode-looking designs while coalescing hand-poured concrete. Mindful of how they source their inventory, the minerals are found from their mining trips from across the country to public mines and used to create geode vessels. The “Vessel” is their signature geode design and is used for air plants and tea light candles.
“It all starts back to my love of rocks and minerals, recreational mining and visiting caves with my family when I was younger,” says Val. “During our college years when I met my husband, Ray we would go recreational mining in the summer.”
The couple has mined at public mines such as Herkimer Diamond Mine in upstate New York, Hillman Mine in North Carolina and diamond mines in Arkansas, Utah, Arizona and Texas. From there the design duo began creating their art form.
“We wanted to incorporate raw minerals and make something people don’t typically see and we wanted people to use this in their own home,” explains Val.
In their search to match the mineral medium to something that worked well together, they decided on the use of concrete. “It complements the raw stone well,” says Val.
In their first attempt to use the concrete as the medium and when they first tried the design the creation of the vessel happened by accident.
“We dropped one of the planters of cement, but it looked good after it fell,” recalls Val. “I wondered how we could replicate the accidental design — and that’s how the geode vessel came to be.”
Their business brainchild has planted the seed for gardening with the store’s Plant It Bar. The Bar seats up to 8 customers and provides succulents and cacti to be planted. “Customers pick a planter and depending on the size they choose will determine how many succulents and cacti they will need,” says Val. A staff member walks customers through the entire gardening process and demonstrates how to replant the succulent and cacti to make it into an arrangement. “We offer toppings at the bar with sand for a desert feel or raw minerals in chunks of geodes, and other different specimen,” explains Val. Additionally, when you reserve a seat at the Plant It Bar the price includes gardening gloves, soil, planting materials, succulent and cacti and toppings — or top soil décor.
When deciding on a company name they knew they wanted to keep their last name in some way. “We felt like it made it a little different to split the name in half because Tal & Bert sounded more like a brand,” says Val.
What they’re doing with their name now is giving back.
“Every three to four months we choose an initiative to support or that our employees have chosen. One of our employees, Abbie leaves next month for Africa. She’ll be living with local women at 7 Rivers Outreach on the Eastern Cape of South Africa teaching them how to bake and sell bread. We’ll have this initiative up on our web site until mid-February for people to donate. We also named a product for her called the Abbie candle. The proceeds from the sale of the candle will also go to supporting her initiative,” says Val.
The Talbert’s are grateful for all the support they’ve received from amazing employees such as Abbie and the amazing help from people along the way. “Both Ray’s and my parents have always given back and have done something for someone else,” explains Val. “With the success of Tal & Bert, we have more of a platform and are a vessel to do more for others.”