I know exactly where you are coming from in your previous post, Joy.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, as they say.
My family’s jewelry business began in northern New Hampshire in the
summer of 1972, in a tent at the base of Loon Mountain to be
specific. At first business was good, mainly supported by tourists
traveling the Kancamagus Highway. Then came winter and they kicked us
off of the bunny slope so we had to move indoors. We opened our first
brick and mortar store in the old Mad River Canoe Company building in
Campton that was owned by a friend of my Dad’s. It was on the only
road traveling from I-93 to Waterville Valley, on NH-49 right near
the intersection with route 175. Business was pretty good there too.
For a while.
It was during that formative time for my family’s business in the
early to mid 70’s that the paper mill in Lincoln closed and the Beebe
River plant scaled back big-time. Then came the Energy Crisis with
those mile-long gas lines (which we never had in the White
Mountains). People stopped coming up north for vacation at first
mainly because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get gas for
the trip back to Boston or Connecticut, or wherever. Within a year or
two they stopped coming up because they flat couldn’t afford it as
the recession was picking up a full head of steam nationwide.
As Joy pointed out, the locals have little need of expensive
jewelry. Essentially the way they look at it, if you can’t drive it,
eat it, ski on it, fish with it or shoot anything with it, then it’s
pretty much worthless. All jewelry does is be pretty, and that’s not
enough in the north country. Folks up there would spend big bucks on
a rifle, a pair of Rossi Stratos and bindings, a Ski-93 season pass
or a snow machine, but a pair of plain sterling wedding bands was
about all the jewelry most ever saw the need to own. Hard to make a
living with little more to work with than jewelry and locals,
especially during a recession. Am I singing your song, Joy?
That recession never really ended in northern New England, so my
folks ended up moving to Dallas, TX in 1980 and opened a store there.
Sounds like very little has changed. Which in northern New Hampshire
is no real surprise to me. Very little ever changes up there.
I love New Hampshire and still consider it to be my real home.
Unfortunately, there is little chance I will ever be able to move
back until I retire, there just isn’t a real jewelry industry there,
north of Portsmouth or Nashua at any rate (if I have to live in a
flat-land city, it’s gotta be a warm one), and my chosen lifestyle
won’t allow me to be a starving artist. I certainly would never be
able to achieve my life-long dream of owning a lake house on Squam
Lake by running a retail jewelry store in Littleton. Living and
working in Durham, NC however puts that dream within reach.
It’s all about priorities. What’s most important. I think it’s safe
to say that for the vast majority of us that work with metal for a
living, we aren’t doing it to get rich, we do it because we love it.
In my case, I almost have no choice. I can’t imagine having a job in
which I watch the clock, waiting for quitting time or spending time
figuring out how to maximize my vacation time. For me, the priority
is working metal. Making a decent living above survival levels is a
close second and where I do it is secondary or even tertiary to
those. The price I pay is that I only get to New Hampshire and Maine
once every few years. The good part of that is that unlike everywhere
I’ve ever lived or visited, so little changes from decade to decade
that after a day or two, it feels like I never left. Twin Mountain
looks pretty much the same as it did when my wife and I were dating
and working at the Mount Washington Hotel in the summer of 1977
(somebody in the family had to have a real job, that summer it was my
The damnable thing about it is that the thought processes of the
people that live there, the simple, earthy way of life, the things
that make it such a wonderful place to live, are the very things that
prevent me from living there.
I’m not 100% happy with the trade-offs of my situation, but all in
all, I’m not complaining. North Carolina isn’t New Hampshire, but
it’s a heck of a lot closer both geographically and topographically
than Dallas is, and there’s money here. There are also a lot of
people here that appreciate what we all do enough to actually pay for
it. We all are faced with trade-offs, the trick is to make the
choices that make the trade-offs we have to accept fit with our
priorities. Not an easy balance sometimes.
One day, I’ll see that “Bienvenue au New Hampshire” sign for the
very last time as I make my way back home. I just hope it’s not from
the back of a hearse.