Sunday profile: Patti’s stars aligned when she found her calling in the mineral world
High Country Gems and Minerals owner Patti 'Rock Star' tells her story
There’s a small sign directly inside the front door at High Country Gems and Minerals in downtown Glenwood Springs that has two simple words — “please touch.”
It’s just low enough on the inside of a large, elongated split geode crystal to catch the eye of the younger among the visitors to the shop owned for the past 11 years by Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth.
“I often have to remind people that it’s OK for the kids to touch and feel,” said Neuroth, who has been part of one of Glenwood’s oldest locally owned shops for 19 years; the first eight under previous owners Matt and Anita Macqueen.
“The adults kind of freak out, but the kids understand it. That’s how they learn,” Neuroth said. “We want to set them up for an adventure in here, and establish the fact that this is not a normal store.”
Indeed, there’s nothing normal about the little rock store at 311 Eighth Street — or its owner, for that matter.
Both are bursting with energy. It’s an energy Neuroth says emanates from the rocks, minerals and fossils (including 15-million-year-old megladon shark teeth) inside her store. By the accounts of countless visitors, it’s that energy that tends to draw them inside, she said.
A white star that’s inset in the entryway at the store — carved by longtime area hard rock miner Robert Congdon — forebodes one of the many treasures people will find inside.
Neuroth tries hard not to let anyone out the door before they’ve heard her story of the star geode that resides at the shop — a special find at one of the many rock shows she has attended over the years, and one that fits her persona perfectly.
Rock of ages
Neuroth took on the “Rock Star” moniker several years after deciding to go full in to learn about geology after she began working for the Macqueens at the turn of the 21st century.
“I had quit a job I hated in Aspen, and had some limited funds to take some time off to do some things for me,” she said. “When it came time to get a job, I was asking the universe, ‘where do you want me?’”
Having lived in downtown Glenwood Springs on Bennett Avenue for many years, going back to her self-described “hippie days,” Neuroth had always been curious about the rock shop on Eighth Street.
One day, she met former owner Matt Macqueen and he began talking about rocks and showing her maps of where to find certain types of rocks and gems.
“At the end of the conversation, he says, ‘hey, would you like a job?’ I thought, ‘well, that’s weird,’ but the answer is yes,” Neuroth recalled.
For a time, she worked part time at the rock store and part time at a bath accessories shop that also resided in downtown Glenwood at the time.
But it was the world of geology that sparked a passion she carries to this day. She began taking classes with geology instructor Gary Zabel at Colorado Mountain College, going on field trips into Glenwood Canyon and throughout the region to learn about the rock world.
“It was difficult to go back to college and learn all of that, but it was fun, because he made it fun,” she said.
Several years prior to that experience, the Tulsa, Oklahoma transplant had made the decision to get sober, which she also credits with setting her on the right path.
“I finally matured enough to learn how to think better,” she said. “There’s also this connection with what I consider to be spirit …
“I’m working with minerals all day long, so everything is energy, frequency, vibration. That’s what it’s all about.”
When the Macqueens — now owners of Sioux Villa Curio shop on Sixth Street — decided to sell the rock shop, Neuroth was the obvious, and willing, successor.
“Just recently, I called them to thank them for this opportunity,” she said. “I still look back on all this and go, ‘wow.’”
When not at the store, she spends a lot of her time at rock shows around the country, including large ones in Tucson, Arizona and one in Denver each year. There, she has made a lot of connections when it comes to merchandise, but she has also established friendships and met a lot of characters.
“It’s an amazing immersion, because there are so many people who know so much,” she said. “Every show, I see minerals I haven’t seen before. And, you get to hang out with miners, the people who actually dig it. That is really where it’s at.
“There’s always a Colorado section of miners, and I get invited to their claims and buy from them directly.”
High Country Gems and Minerals has been in the same location for 48 years, founded by Lee and Peggy Mestas in 1971 before changing hands to the Macqueens in the early 1990s, and then to Neuroth in 2008.
“We’re kind of a lighthouse, and I think people do seek us out,” she said.
Inside the shop, the wall behind the register is graced with pictures of days gone by, including one of all three owners together that was taken a few years before Lee Mestas’s death at age 99.
“That was a very sacred moment for me,” Neuroth said.
A guest register contains sayings and photos from visitors going back through the years, including multiple generations of families who have stopped in on return trips to Glenwood Springs.
“That book is so special to me, because it’s real connections with people,” Neuroth said.
The store was also included in a segment of the Colorado-based reality TV show, Prospectors.
After purchasing the business, Neuroth did an extensive remodel of the store and added the back area to her lease, which used to be the kitchen for the old Glenwood Cafe. There, the store hosts a variety of classes and other small events.
Other personal touches include a “fairy garden,” which is graced with different figurines of fairies and gnomes.
And, of course, the star geode.
Neuroth said she came across the geode at one of the rock shows, which had already been split open to reveal a perfect, seven-point star. That’s rare, she said, because if it had been cracked at any other point on the rock, it would have been completely different.
In any case, she had to have it.
“It’s all just so fascinating,” Neuroth adds. “How can you look at any of this, and not know there’s some intelligence behind the whole thing.
“If this doesn’t bring you awe, what will? And I’m surrounded by it everyday.”
Helping Neuroth in the shop and at the rock shows is Sara Pomey, who began working at High Country shortly before Neuroth purchased the business. She has designs on buying the business herself one day, when Neuroth is ready to pass it along.
Pomey said she has had a love for rocks since she was a child, collecting rocks while out on her bike and trying to figure out a way to haul them home.
“I can’t think of anything else that I would want to do more,” Pomey said. “There’s always more to learn, and more to do. Here, I feel like I’m absolutely free to be who I am, 100 percent every day, and just be present with the people who come into the store.”
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be closed intermittently Wednesday through the weekend, as highway crews break down and remove boulders and patch potholes caused by Tuesday’s rock slide.