Karen Powers and the other volunteers keep the Gemm Shop running smoothly and safely during the pandemic.

Karen Powers and the other volunteers keep the Gemm Shop running smoothly and safely during the pandemic.


The 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Gemm Shop was held on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. About three weeks later, because of the pandemic, the board members had to close up the store because it was considered a non-essential business.?

The Gemm Shop was created 50 years ago by a group of creative mothers who wanted to earn enough money to buy new band uniforms for the high school. Doris Dunlap, Margaret Northrup, Janet Elder, Ruth Bates, Margaret Huckle, Lanetta Husted, Betty Reynolds, and Millie Tubbs all had children in the marching band and saw a need for new uniforms to unite the group of musicians. A small thrift shop was opened to offer gently used clothing and accessories to members of the community at reasonable prices. What started out as a one-year endeavor, eventually blossomed into the Gemm Shop of today. The name of the store was chosen because volunteers knew they would get some donated “gems” to sell, but wanted to differentiate the thrift store from a jewelry store.

After the band uniforms were purchased, the founding mothers realized that money earned at the thrift store could be put to other good uses and decided to keep the business open. Over the years, the Gemm Shop has increased its hours of operation and moved to its current location at 17 West Main Street in Trumansburg. It has established scholarships for Trumansburg and South Seneca High School seniors, given money to the ambulance fund, helped with village beautification, donated to repairs at Grove Cemetery, and purchased books for the Ulysses Philomathic Library. Donations have also been given to scouting groups, the Ulysses Christmas Bureau, the After Prom Party, and other charitable organizations. The Gemm Shop has supplied clothing for families who were left homeless due to a fire or other unfortunate circumstances.

The current Gemm Shop Board is headed by chairwoman Karen Powers. “While the Gemm Shop was closed, we put in an air purifier and installed hand-sanitizing stations. We organized and did a deep clean. The board met on Zoom to figure out the protocols for when we could reopen,” she said.

It was decided that temperatures would not being taken for volunteers or customers. Some volunteers were not comfortable coming in and dealing with the public now, so the Gemm Shop is down a few staff members. Those manning the store are behind a Plexiglas shield and wearing masks. However, the shop is doing very well and business is pretty steady. Some days, traffic has been heavy at times. Ten people are allowed in the store at once, so, on busy days, a few customers have been asked to temporarily remain outside and wait their turn to enter the store. Of course, masks for shoppers and staff are required at all times. If a customer does not have a mask, one will be provided. A station for hand sanitizer is available near the door.

Besides a wide variety of clothing, accessories, and shoes for the whole family, the Gemm Shop stocks household goods, books and toys, holiday items and decorations, jewelry, winter coats and boots, and many other treasures reasonably priced. There is something for everyone. In the current pandemic climate, it still makes sense to stop in and check out what is available.

Consignments are currently being accepted. At first, the clothing had to sit for 48 hours before it could be placed on the racks. Then the Health Department learned that the Coronavirus could not stay viable on clothes, so now consignments can be checked in, tagged, and placed on the racks sooner. No one can try on clothes, however. That makes it a bit more complicated if you do not know your correct size and brands can differ slightly. Purchased clothing is removed from hangers which are then sprayed with sanitizer and left to dry overnight. New clothing can be placed on hangers and go back on the racks the next morning. Customers are asked to bring their own bags to take their purchases from the store.

“We can always use more volunteers to work in the Gemm Shop,” Powers mentioned. “COVID has made our 50th year very interesting, and that should continue into 2021. The Health Department has supplied masks and NYS Clean sanitizer. I can’t say enough about the Health Department and how helpful they have been. Our customers have been very good about wearing masks and social distancing too. The holiday season has been a good one.”

The Gemm Shop is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Stop in, look around, and purchase that special something you have been searching for. Consignments are welcome. Volunteers are needed. Please come to the front desk for information and an application.

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