IRONTON -- If it has to do with the Petoskey stone, northern Michigan has marketed it, right?
Wrong, a Charlevoix area couple recently discovered.
"We were trying to purchase a Petoskey stone jigsaw puzzle online and we couldn't find one," said Matt Claflin, a rock hunter, puzzler and owner and operator of the Ironton Market with his wife, Lisa.
So the couple created their own retail puzzle of the Michigan state stone which features some of the hundreds of Petoskeys they've collected over the years.
The 550-piece puzzle, called "Rising Sun" or "Petoskey" in the language of the Ottawa, has met with surprising success, said Lisa Claflin, an Elk Rapids native. The couple has sold nearly 3,000 of the games since the end of June, many to area vacationers.
"We have a lot of people around our store who bought it for their cabin," Claflin said. "It was a stinky winter, so people were inside. When you have to be inside, puzzles are a really awesome thing to do. A lot of other people have said they've had friends who've come to Michigan and not been able to find a stone, so they're taking a puzzle to them."
Now the couple is getting ready to roll out their second design, "Lures and Legends," in what they hope will be an annual jigsaw puzzle series.
"That puzzle we've done in tribute to family and pastimes," Claflin said, referring to its Petoskey stone-and-fishing lure theme. "A lot of the bobbers and weights (pictured in the puzzle) were my grandfather's."
The puzzle business, called Puzzles That Rock, is an important sideline for the family, which includes sons Jacob, 5, and Nathan, 3. Both boys helped collect stones on area beaches for the original puzzle, which was shot by an Elk Rapids photographer. The couple also manages a rental property in Elk Rapids and creates Petoskey stone prints, postcards, greeting cards and picture frames using Lisa's creative talent.
"The winters are very slow here so we have a good portion of the year we can generate funds other ways," Matt Claflin said.
The puzzle was produced by a Midwest company using recycled cardboard and soy-based inks. When completed, it measures 18 by 24 inches. A framed version -- the first print of the first edition -- hangs in the couple's small specialty food store.
Lisa Claflin said the puzzle's popularity reflects a growing appreciation for nature and the "crazy phenomenon" of Petoskey stones, which can only be found in northern Michigan. Scientifically named Hexagonaria Percarinata, the distinctive honeycomb-patterned stones are pieces of fossilized coral that lived in the warm shallow waters that covered Michigan 350 million years ago.
For many families, puzzling is a welcome return to a simpler pastime in a high-tech era, she said.
"For us, it's time away from the TV, time away from the computer, time away from the business, and it's time when we actually sit together and put puzzles together," she said. "It's bringing families together and appreciating what's in our back yard."
The puzzle sells for $19.99 and is available at the Ironton Market and nearly 100 other locations statewide. It's also available online at puzzlesthatrock.com.