Earthshine celebrates 30 years

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 at 9:11 PM
Earthshine celebrates 30 years by Thomas Taylor
Photo: Thomas Taylor

Walking into Earthshine, there’s a certain vibe that can’t be shaken. The wafting odors of incense hit the nostrils, and you’re transported to a kaleidoscope of colors, items and experiences, all with their own story to tell.

The colorful figurines on the wall watch over you, as you gaze at the clothing, from shawls to sweaters and shirts. Mood rings line the counter underneath glass, as a tie-dye Victrola record player blasts classic rock in the background. A collection of those records are for sale in boxes and crates, as if you’re picking from someone’s personal collection.

Behind this counter, musical equipment such as guitar strings and other accessories line the wall, along with stitch-on logos of bands stretching over 50 years. To describe every item in this store would take time, which seems to be frozen in this place.

Earthshine may feel based on the ‘60s and ‘70s, but first opened in 1990, having now seen 30 years of development, time and generations pass through their doors.

The secret to how the local staple came to be lies with The Grateful Dead.

“That’s when the store got started, basically on tour. They (John and Lynn Hammill) would sell stuff out of their van, in the parking lots at Grateful Dead shows. And so, then they wanted to settle down and start a store,” Shannon Hokaj, current owner and Edinboro alumna of ‘92, explained.

Hokaj and her husband took over the store back in 1996 from the Hammills, who were friends. The original owners moved out of the area after selling the store. 

Keeping with tradition, fans of the legendary band still stop by, looking for T-shirts.

Hokaj talked about the store as she was going around, helping customers and restocking shelves. After taking ownership, they moved the location down the street to where it is now.

“It was a nice, little hippie store,” she said, reminiscing. “It was pretty much the same: incense, clothing, jewelry. Geared toward college kids, so I got a little everything for everyone.”

For customers, the store takes them on a psychedelic journey that brings different generations closer together.

“It’s such a friendly place that meets everybody’s needs. Kids love to come in here, so when my nieces and nephews come from out of town, it’s the first thing they say. ‘Are we going to go uptown and go to Earthshine?’” Helen Skelton, an Edinboro resident who has lived here for 58 years, said.

“It’s a great spot that everyone can enjoy, from little babies up to grandparents.”

Skelton’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm as she described her family’s favorite Earthshine gifts, as if a guitar rift from the Victrola sparked a memory of a favorite song.

“The jewelry and the ceramics — I actually got my favorite pair of mittens here. The kids like the incense.” As she spoke, she was also trying to find that one mood ring underneath the counter, which was specific down to the color and shape of the stone.

“Just the funny things you can find, and the local artists are supported. It’s just a great place and I just love it,” said Skelton. Locally-made products at the store include coffee, hemp necklaces and keychains.

Back when the store first opened, Edinboro was a very different place than residents see now.

“There was not a downtown. This downtown was dead when I started here in ‘88,” Hokaj discussed as she looked out at the street. “There were some shops here, but nobody really hung out down here. The bars I’m sure were doing well, but there weren’t any retail shops that were interesting. Everything else was business or closed down. I think Earthshine woke the downtown up.”

Although this year has been Earthshine’s 30th in business, there were still difficulties along the way when Walmart opened.

“I just lost 30% of my business, and it took me to the next year to build it back up and then to grow,” she said.

Hokaj remembered the secret to getting shoppers back in the store was in the items themselves.

“I just tried to order things more related to my genre and the feel of my store, things you wouldn’t really go to Walmart for. I ordered less, and was very cautious of what I bought.”

Many people have looked back over recent years to the 1960s and ‘70s, with the revival of “retro” styles. Hokaj attributes this to a genre and customers so iconic, the legacies speak for themselves.

“The ‘60s never really went out of style, so there’s always been hippies. The incense, the oils, the alternative living, on the side of risqué funny things, tapestries, candles. All that kind of stuff appeals to those people, but now oils and incenses is all very mainstream.”

Looking forward to the future of the store, Hokaj has some ambitious plans.

“Right now, it’s going to stay the same. I’d like to do more festivals and things, and doing more outside events,” she said.

“I’m hoping to get a van and get that whole setup going, so that I can travel with Earthshine but still keep the shop.”

The van would come full circle, bringing the store back to where it all started, chasing a dream from the tours of Grateful Dead all the way back to ‘Boro.

As the song goes, written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter from the 1970 album “American Beauty,” “You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down / I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out the door and light out to look around.”

Additional Photos:

Photo: Thomas TaylorPhoto: Sydney KeeferPhoto: Sydney Keefer

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