ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - The collection inside the Roynon Museum of Earth Science and Paleontology in Escondido would be impressive for any natural history museum.
It’s filled with thousands of specimens, including fossils, petrified wood, full-size skeleton replicas and a woolly mammoth skull.
The fact that it’s tucked inside a nondescript strip mall makes it all the more intriguing.
You just have to find it first.
“We have people here all day long coming in saying, ‘how long have you been here? I’ve never heard of this, this is unbelievable!’” said Keith Roynon, who has spent nearly his whole life amassing the collection.
“I was six years old when I started,” he said. “Everything in here has a story.”
But that story is coming to an end. This week, Roynon announced they would be closing their doors at the end of June.
It was due to a combination of factors. Most pressing, he says, was their attendance. The number of paying customers has not been high enough to sustain payment for more than one employee.
Roynon first started exhibiting his collection in the late 1990s. But it kept growing and about four years ago he opened in the current location on Grand Avenue.
What began as a hobby in retirement, running the museum became a full-time job. He is able to pay one employee, but he says he doesn’t take a salary.
At 81, he wants to dial back his hours, but without a sustainable income to pay for his replacement, he decided he would be unable to keep the museum open.
That is, unless admissions start to increase or a generous donor swoops in.
“We need a shot in the arm,” said Roynon.
While he’s hoping that may materialize, he’s only paid his lease through July. Right now the plan is to stay open through June before closing and packing up.
Roynon says half of the collection is owned by the 501c3 non-profit that he created to run the museum. He and his wife own the other half outright.
When they close, he says he plans to give the non-profit collection to another museum. The other half he says he’ll start selling off to collectors.
The museum is open from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays. It’s located at 457 East Grand Ave, Suite 1-3.