Walking into Dharma Love in South Lake Tahoe, one is greeted with warm and welcoming smells and sights: roughly sketched hearts; photographs of Buddha, lilies and old-school bicycles adorn greeting cards; beanies, T-shirts, tote bags, artwork and other made-with-care gifts. Standing behind the counter next to a medium-sized smiling Buddha sculpture is Dharma Love’s founder, Anastasia Keriotis.
“I want to send something beautiful and positive out in the world and so when people tell me their stories that means everything to me.” –Anastasia Keriotis
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the California College of the Arts and continued to pursue her love of painting, ceramics, making jewelry and film photography. She’s had her artwork in galleries in Palm Springs and Reno, Nev., and traveled to developing countries to capture different cultures on film. Keriotis began creating greeting cards that she would give to loved ones and found a niche.
Stores around California started carrying her cards. Next, she started making onesies because according to her: “People don’t think twice about buying baby clothes.”
In 2006, Keriotis named her greeting card and clothing line Dharma Love, bought a heat-transfer printing press and made a number of signature products.
“The line keeps evolving. People wanted greeting cards, then hats, so I started making hats and they became our No. 1 selling product. Then I started making sweatshirts,” she says. Keriotis also did a lot of research in order to source hemp and certified organic/socially accountable cotton garments to print her images on.
“There are no children involved [in the making of the garments]; people work in good conditions. These hemp products sustain a weaving village in Guatemala,” Keriotis says.
The sustainably sourced fabrics she uses and the imprints on her bags, hoodies and beanies wash and wear well. One customer in the Dharma Love store says that the messenger bag that she’s had since Dharma Love’s inception is still holding up beautifully.
Keriotis first moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1996, but left and came back three times, finally settling in South Lake in 2013.
“Part of me wanted to be in the city and part of me wanted to be in the mountains,” she says. Keriotis’ brother is a local writer and literature professor and she came to embrace outdoor mountain culture over fast-paced city life.
“I have a beautiful community here and my friends kept telling me to come back,” she says.
For Dharma Love, Keriotis found a house that could fit her production process to keep up with the demand from the wholesalers, but then her customers mentioned that it would be nice if Dharma Love opened a storefront. Keriotis may have had some major ebbs and flows in her life, but her customers have always led her down the right path. In 2017, she opened a flagship store in the Swiss-looking shopping center at 2520 Lake Tahoe Blvd. A section of her space is partitioned off to hold her two small printing presses and works in progress.
Keriotis has also been selling Dharma Love products at music festivals and farmers’ markets. It’s one of her favorite aspects to the business because it allows her to personally connect with her customers.
“One woman came up to me and told me about her bag that she had for 10 years that she bought in Cupertino. She called her husband over and said, ‘This is the woman who made the bag that I love.’ It gives me chills just thinking about it,” Keriotis says. “People ask why I still do these events. It’s to connect with people. That’s what makes you who you are. I want to send something beautiful and positive out in the world and so when people tell me their stories that means everything to me.” | dharmalove.com