Cartel Crystals: A Love Story

Photos by Michael Van Auken

Cartel Crystals (noun): a place where one enters to buy crystals, but leaves feeling a little more at peace and a little more loved. 

Enjolique Oranje opened Cartel Crystals at 623 First Street this fall, but you may recognize her from the Crystal Shack in Solano Square. Cartel Crystals is a bright space; pale pink walls and clean lighting create a soft ambiance, perfect for letting the shelves upon shelves of crystals speak for themselves. 

Though she has encountered naysayers who believe crystals to be “just rocks,” Oranje sees crystals as extensions of the earth in similar ways that we, humans, are. Made up of the same stardust, we can never be completely sure that the vibrational energy emitted from these “rocks” cannot influence us at all.

As a passion project, Oranje’s goal is to connect her customers with crystals that resonate with them.

When customers enter the space, it may seem counterintuitive that there are no labels explaining the uses of any of the crystals, but this is actually a strategic decision. Oranje explained that she doesn’t use labels in part because she doesn’t want to imply that each crystal only has a small handful of uses when they’re really capable of a myriad of things. 

Oranje also chose not to use labels to encourage conversation. She loves to talk to her customers who, without information from labels, are encouraged to ask Oranje for help. Learning about who they are and what they’re looking for is when perfect pairings are made with the help of her vault of knowledge and resources. 

Four amethyst obelisks on a shelf at Cartel Crystals

But who is Enjolique Oranje?

Besides owning Cartel Crystals, she is a Disney Travel Agent, a wife, a daughter and sister. She is a woman who has felt the pressures of life and gotten out from under it with the help of crystals and her husband, Zach. 

First Street’s regulars may have noticed Oranje’s husband preparing the space for the move from the Crystal Shack. He has toiled away, building Oranje’s vision to life. 

The Oranjes have been married for nine years after growing up as family friends.

Oranje described her husband as her “teen crush” as she shared their story; but, it wasn’t until their twenties when they reconnected and fell in love. They married only a year after the first Instagram direct message. 

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without him,” Oranje says. Besides using his construction knowledge from his family’s business, Oranje’s husband supports her in every possible way from paperwork to taking over on opening day while she recovered from surgery. 

“My poor husband,” was a refrain during our conversation—Oranje would laugh and smile as she said the phrase, honoring the ways that he trusts her vision and finds ways to encourage her dreams. Though he was initially upset when the lease on the Crystal Shack was signed, he understood Oranje’s vague vision and actualized it within the space. Now, the location will stay with the Oranjes as the home of their surf brand, another business that they have invested in together. 

The couple does everything together.

Crystals became an integral part of their marriage as they are something they are both passionate about. Once they discovered this shared interest, the Oranjes planned annual trips to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. While Enjolique enjoys the spiritual benefits, Zach is extremely knowledgeable on the science behind rocks and their chemical composure. 

Though they seem to have opposing perspectives on the crystals, that’s not the point. The point is, as Oranje says, “if there’s something you both love to do, you have to keep that alive,” even during difficult times. Besides the Tucson show and other crystal collecting excursions, they make it a priority to take trips to Disneyland. While it’s partially work for Oranje’s travel business, they set aside time for play, as well. Neither of them would enjoy going to Tucson or Disneyland without the other, Oranje explained. Part of the fun is spending time together and enjoying each other’s company.  

While Oranje’s husband is a huge factor in her success and happiness, the real hero of this story is self-love.

It quickly became clear to me that Oranje’s first priority is happiness. “I don’t want to live to work, I want to work to live,” she stated. “Money is money. It comes and goes.”

It was hard to picture Oranje in her twenties, burnt out and unenthusiastic, while she sat in front of me, recounting that time in her life. The woman I saw looked deeply content. By following her dreams and becoming a business owner, she has built a life that she loves. Making crystals the center of that business surrounded her with reminders of love and happiness in her life, not just that of her husband, but also her own. 

But how did Oranje drum up the courage to take this dive?

She used a Walt Disney quote to explain, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” By trusting her own capabilities, yet another act of self-love, she has brought to fruition a business that brings joy into her life. 

Quelling the perfectionist thoughts will continue to be a challenge, however, Oranje maintains a positive outlook. She tells herself truths and mantras, relies on her husband, and trusts in crystals. She spends her days at Cartel Crystals helping her customers welcome such happiness into their lives, spreading her love wide into the Benicia community. 

Life is challenging, but here is a mantra that we can all borrow from Enjolique Oranje: “I deserve my dreams.”

Geodes at Cartel Crystals