“People ask me, 'What brought you to West Jefferson?'” said Coleman Perry of Perry's Gold Mine, the family-owned jewlery store that opened on North Jefferson Avenue last month.
“I tell 'em, 'Elvis,'” he said.
Perry, who operates another Perry's Gold Mine location in Charlotte, was driving with his 11-year-old son one day, when an Elvis Presley tune came on the satellite radio. “He loved it!” Perry said.
“So anytime we saw an Elvis impersonator in concert, I would take him to it,” he said.
In January, 2012, Perry took his son to Morganton to catch “Elvis Lives,” a theatrical tribute concert featuring several “Elvii.” “They had a young Elvis, an old Elvis, a fat Elvis and a skinny Elvis,” Perry said.
Mixing business with pleasure, he had planned a drive to Blowing Rock after the show to schedule some auctions, but was disappointed to find no workable dates available at the auction venue. Shrugging off the bad timing of the business trip, he headed back to Charlotte.
“When we were leaving town, I saw this sign: 'West Jefferson 24 miles,'” he said.
“So we drove over here Sunday morning. Nobody was in downtown; it was snowing,” he said. “We walked around downtown, and I saw there was a store for sale.”
Back home in Charlotte, Perry called a realtor friend to look into properties in West Jefferson. “Within two weeks, I owned this building,” he said.
Fifteen months later, Perry's Gold Mine joined the bumper crop of new businesses opening downtown.
“We fell in love with West Jefferson right off the bat,” he said.
It took a year-and-a-half to get the building up to code and retail space built out, he said. The store has a classic, old department store look, with an antique hardwood jewelery counter and ceiling-high display cabinets to match.
Specializing in new, antique and estate goods, Perry's Gold Mine is located at 4 N. Jefferson Ave., where the old Northwest Bank used to be. The vintage 1960's bank vault has been put back into use, and was recently serviced by the same locksmith who maintained it for Northwest 20 years ago — he even remembered the combination.
Perry and his family still live in Charlotte, keeping West Jefferson business hours Thursday through Saturday. Later, he hopes to turn the building's second floor — a 24-room hotel — into a private residence.
Charlotte is where all the Gold Mine's jewelery and watch work gets done — for now. As the business builds, Perry said, some local help will be hired to make the store a full-service jeweler.
Perry is not a jeweler or watchmaker by trade. “My talent is for buy, sell, trade,” he said.
As proof of this, the store is now having an open-ended “we need your business” sale this season, he said. “Tell 'em to come on in. We're ready to deal.”