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Green Earth Matters: eco conscious thrifting

“Green Earth Matters” was the original name of a newsletter Tara Ravishankar hoped to write – before there was an internet – about recycling resources in her local community. Now it is the name of her thrift shop, G.E.M.

Ravishankar had always dreamt of opening a thrift store. She opened G.E.M. on Halloween of 2019 after a friend bought a house just north of 12th Street and Candelaria. She said she is primarily interested in keeping stuff out of landfills and creating a space for the community to donate the things they don’t want anymore.

“I try to keep my prices super low. I'm not trying to become a millionaire (or) make money.

This is just my hobby, my thing to do, my little tiny piece to save the planet,” Ravishankar said.

The original items in the shop were gathered from her and her family’s garages. Her initial plan was to attend garage sales and offer to take their leftover items to keep the store stocked, but once the store opened, stuff just kept coming, Ravishankar said. The neighborhood has become accustomed to leaving their things for Ravishankar to sell.

“I call it ‘the circle of stuff’ because it's like, there's no reason to buy new stuff anymore … It's almost more stuff that I can handle. People keep saying, ‘You're gonna have to start turning away stuff,’ but I hate to do that because I don't want it to go in the landfill. That's my big thing. It's all good things that people can use,” Ravishankar said.

Annette Claycomb started as a customer of the shop but has begun helping Ravishankar on days that she needs a break. The mission of the shop is what kept her coming back, Claycomb said.

“The fact that her mission is recycling – she keeps the prices so low that she's really stretching to pay the bills. She just wants things to move fast – people to reuse things,” Claycomb said. “She really helps out people who are financially strapped.”

In addition to the shop’s recycled items, Ravishankar sells crafts made by neighbors and people she has met through the thrift store. This includes jewelry, aprons and pillows. Apart from one customer that sells antiques, Ravishankar does not receive commissions from the sales.

“They will do (a) little craft but not enough to really put it in the actual store, so I just give (them) space to do that,” Ravishankar said.

People in the valley don’t only stop by to shop, but have many stories to tell Ravishakar about the neighborhood. This, she said, is one of her favorite parts of running the shop.

“I love it down here. It's just so much more real; the people just are real and they've been here for generations. I hear stories,” Ravishakar said. “Apparently this house was moved from down the street, like a couple blocks down the street. They just picked the house up, moved it and set it here.”

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Ravishakar keeps pictures of the house and its surroundings from different times in history; she hangs them up on the wall above the cash register. People have come into the shop and told her their own stories about the house.

“A woman walked in – she came in the door and she just stood at the door,’” Ravishakar said.  “(She) was looking all around and she goes, ‘I was born in this house. She goes, ‘I knew that they moved the house somewhere, but I didn't know where.’”

Keeping the shop open is hard for Ravishakar to do alone. To lessen the burden, her son made her a website and helped set up credit card sales.

“I started cash-only and he was like, ‘Mom, you can't have a business and not take a credit card.’ So he went out and bought me the square,” Ravishankar said. “Probably twice my sales are all on credit cards. … It definitely was the right thing to do.”

Meeting people in the neighborhood and seeing what they buy is an impactful part of working at the shop, Claycomb said.

“There’s one family that comes in with three little kids, and each one's pushing one of those pink Barbie shopping carts — they fill it up for a dollar and go off … I’m so honored to be part of that,” Claycomb said.

Addison Key is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @addisonkey11

Addison Key

Addison Key is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo and served as the Summer 2023 culture editor. She can be reached on Twitter @addisonkey11. 

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