Second nature: At High Tor, sustainability shifts into high gear

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Erin James and Seth Herman are making 
it easier for folks to get outside, with their new gear-focused consignment shop, High Tor. Photo: Eze Amos Erin James and Seth Herman are making it easier for folks to get outside, with their new gear-focused consignment shop, High Tor. Photo: Eze Amos

Enjoying nature is free, but gearing up for a camping trip or extended hike can become an expensive proposition, especially when choosing quality equipment. Erin James and Seth Herman, outdoors enthusiasts who met in Charlottesville in 2010, have addressed that problem (and more) with their new outdoor gear and clothing consignment shop, High Tor Gear Exchange in McIntire Plaza.

Named after a beloved state park near Herman’s childhood home in New York, the shop accepts new or used items—such as clothing and boots, and camping, cycling, and ski equipment—and provides the consignor with a percentage of the proceeds when the item sells. Transparency is a point of emphasis for Herman. “We have a spreadsheet based on the original MSRP of every item, so it’s crystal clear to our consignors how we price items and when they’ll receive a check,” he says.

Now married with a toddler to boot, James and Herman hope to combine their love of hiking, biking, and paddling with their passion for helping people enjoy the natural world “untangled from the idea of having to buy and own something new.”

“We love giving people access to the things they need to get outside in a more sustainable way,” says James. “And it makes us happy to know that the stuff being sold is going right back into the community.”

Herman credits Charlottesville’s Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) with giving him the skills to succeed during a 16-week class for small business owners. “The CIC helped us meet other owners and entrepreneurs and get the word out, and the connections we’ve made within the community have been incredible.”

James are Herman are brimming with ideas to strengthen community ties. “We’re about to launch a new program option where, instead of payment in cash or store credit, consignors can choose a local experience that’s worth even more, like a gym membership or a kayaking trip,” says Herman. “That way, people can try new things and do something healthy, and we can support our fellow local businesses.”

Opened just six months ago, High Tor has already reached over 500 consignors and processed almost 5,000 products, due in no small part to its sleek look and welcoming vibe. “We have kombucha and cold brew coffee on draft, and in the spring we had local eggs for sale,” says James. “Our inventory changes daily, so people can just stop by to have some coffee and browse without feeling any pressure to buy.” And when they do, buyers and sellers both benefit by giving great gear a longer life.

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