Glenwood Springs gem store: A legacy the universe decided

High Country Gems and Minerals gets new owners

Tammy Girardot, Patti "Rock Star" Neuroth and Louie Girardot laugh and joke as they pose for pictures.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

Whether you believe in fate or the metaphysical, some things seem to fall perfectly into place. 

High Country Gem and Minerals store in Glenwood Springs has a way of drawing people in and letting them find the answers they need. 

“I often say, ‘The answer lies within you,'” long-time employee and new owner Tammy Girardot said about customers who come in looking for stones to help them answer personal questions. “Your best bet is to look around, see what calls you.”

In early April, Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth sold the popular gem and mineral store to one of her employees, which happened to be Tammy and her husband, Louie Girardot.

“I didn’t want to sell it to an outsider; that’s just rude,” she said. “The coolest thing in the world is selling it to Tammy and Louie because they’re insiders. They’re already in the family, so to speak.”

Neuroth has been the face of the gem store with her famous seven-pointed star for more than 15 years. She is so well-known, she said even her old landlord went to Antarctica and met geologists who knew who she was. 

“If you say, ‘I’m with Patti Rock Star,’ everybody knows who Patti Rock Star is,” Tammy said about traveling to gem shows with her.

Most famous for her infectious laugh and insisting that each customer sees and hears the story about her seven-pointed star geode, she is just as unique and bright as the “impossible geode” she has always loved to flaunt. 

Lady, one High Country Gems and Minerals employee’s dog stands at the front of the store to greet guests.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

The store was passed down to Neuroth almost as a point of legacy, with the previous owners, Matt and Anita McQueen, insisting she buy the store from them after working in the shop for them for eight years.

“He said, ‘Patti, it’s yours,'” she recalled. 

“‘It’s been yours for a long time,’ he said to her. ‘Besides, that’s what I was supposed to do.'” 

She joked that she found it strange, but she was delighted to buy it. The stars really did seem to align. 

After she bought the store, she decided to paint a seven-pointed star on the sidewalk in front of the shop. 

Painting a seven-pointed star was challenging to get just right, Neuroth said. But then, years later, she came across a collector who happened to show her a naturally-created, seven-pointed star inside of a geode, and she knew there was no other place in the world it belonged to than in the High Country Gems and Minerals shop. 

The way crystals form a seven-pointed star inside of a geode is a very rare find. 

Though many attribute the geode to the local “Rock Star,” Neuroth decided that it will always belong to the shop, and it continues to sit next to the register for families and gem and mineral lovers to appreciate. 

Welcoming the Girardots

“The good thing about this is they’re a team,” Neuroth said. 

Tammy and Louie have been as much a part of the Glenwood Springs community as Neuroth, and this is not their first time running a business downtown. 

Moving just a little up the alley, as Tammy put it, they used to own a restaurant called the Avalon Cafe inside of the King Mall on Grand Avenue in the 1990s. 

Years later, they are still known by many throughout town. Whether through Louie’s band, Louie and the Lizards, or even from knowing Tammy at the gem shop, they are no strangers to the town.

When people hear the store sold, they are happy to see a familiar face when they come in, Tammy said. People have told her they are relieved to hear she and Louie bought it. 

Tammy Girardot, Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth and Louie Girardot pose with the famous seven-pointed star geode.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

The store does have some unique concepts like encouraging people to find what calls for them to find the answers in themselves, and encouraging people, even little ones, to feel free touching the stones when they come in. 

“People really need hope, and so sometimes they want us to answer their questions,” Neuroth said. “But, guess what? It’s in here (pointing to her heart).” 

Tammy and Louie wish to keep those aspects alive. 

“The kids are amazing to watch,” Tammy said. “Their parents are always trying to hold their kids back, and for the most part, they are so respectful. It’s just a natural thing that usually happens with them.”

There is no bias or judgment when people come in, she said. 

“We don’t just assume and go off on it being a metaphysical thing,” she said. “One of the things that is so amazing about the rock shop to me is that we’re open to all. Geologists and metaphysical people get in there and have a great time with it.”

Last year, Louie went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show with both Neuroth and Tammy, and he saw first-hand how much time and energy they put into making sure each piece is perfect for the shop. 

“The overwhelming majority of the rocks in that shop are hand-selected,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that. They literally look at every single one. Every one of them got between 20 seconds to a minute of human attention before being put into the cart.”

Neuroth isn’t sure she will do the long and exhausting trip to Tucson this year, but she made sure to pass on all of her knowledge and connections, and she hopes to make more local shows with them. 

“Patti had mentors, and she has introduced me to the vendors that we use, and these are vendors that we trust that the rock shop has been dealing with for decades,” Tammy said. “They are wonderful people; they’re basically family.”

Last year, when Louie came along, he and Tammy hit the ground running. They picked out their favorite gems for the store, and they were not shy at all, Neuroth said. Tammy took pictures with all of her main suppliers, and Louie introduced himself to everyone they told him to. 

High Country Gems and Minerals store fills up with customers on a busy weekend.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

A legacy to behold

The High Country Gem and Minerals opened in 1971, being one of the oldest stores in Glenwood Springs, besides maybe the Sioux Villa Curio. 

Lee Mestas opened the store with his wife Peggy after his time in the U.S. Army, and his love of gemstones and minerals was apparent to all who came into the store, Louie recalled when he would visit as a child. 

Neuroth came to work at the gem store in 2000 after quitting a job in Aspen she hated. She said she found herself drawn to the store and applied for a job. 

She worked for Matt and Anita McQueen, who bought the store from the Mestas. After eight years, Matt wanted her to buy the store. He had three stores that he sold to women in the area: her gem shop, the Silver Bead and another one in Grand Junction. 

“One of his missions in life is to empower women in business,” Louie said. 

Matt is still in town and currently owns the Sioux Villa Curio. 

Neuroth said she has heard from others that the Mestas would be proud to see how the legacy has continued.

As the town’s favorite “Rock Star,” she has run the storefront for the past 25 years, and sometime near the end of 2022, she decided it was time to pass the torch or, in her case, the geode.

She will still be around living in town; she’ll just be enjoying her retirement from here on out. 

Although there are many places to buy gemstones and minerals in Glenwood Springs, High Country Gems and Minerals has a special way of helping others find the fate and answers they are seeking.

“There is competition out there, and yet the rock shop is still the rock shop,” Tammy said. 

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.