Nestled in a small building inside the bustling Market Street is Gold Creations, a family owned jewelry boutique that has been in business for over 40 years. In 1975 Glenn and Vicki Wolfe opened up shop selling to the locals who frequented the area before the tourism explosion in the 80’s. The young couple had humble beginnings and a wanderlust spirit that brought them out west to hunt for their merchandise. Traveling cross country in their VW bug, they explored the west and visited Indian reservations in New Mexico to buy the most unique Native American jewelry to sell back in Charleston.
Their story is one of love, devotion, commitment, and perseverance. Over the past four decades they have survived Hurricane Hugo, recessions, and continuous flooding. Their merchandise evolved from bohemian hippie jewelry, to a more classic refined look. What is the secret to their success? Knowing that having their own business has given them the most rewarding experience in their life. After Glenn’s passing 5 years ago, Vicki is looking forward to passing on their legacy for generations to come.
The proud momma Vicki Wolfe with her 4 children – Glenn, Patrick, Emily, and Liz. Each one has worked at Gold Creations at some point in their life. Currently Liz handles the marketing, Patrick is the shop manager, and Jonathan her son-in-law handles the back of the house with accounting details. It truly is a family affair.
Gold Creations stocks iconic pieces such as Charleston Rice Beads, Gates of Charleston, and Charleston Charms that visitors love stocking up on. The shop also carries a wide variety of fine jewelry with precious and semi-precious stones. If your looking for those wow statement rings, they carry a dizzying array of every color and design.
View more to hear about Vicki Wolfe’s story and how Gold Creations has grown with Charleston over the years.
Photography by Clifford Pate
When did you meet your husband Glenn? We met in high school. I was a 15, he was 17. I graduated a year early and started Augusta College. After several semesters, I left school and we started traveling.
What were the early beginnings of having a jewelry store together? We bought our first handmade Native American Indian jewelry at a music festival and started wholesaling it to Belk Department Stores in Augusta, Georgia. We took off on a cross country trip in a Volkswagen bug and ended up buying more jewelry in New Mexico. We would take road trips and drove back and forth out west on buying trips; to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and even bought jewelry from Native Indians on reservations.
When did you 1st open shop in the market? We started setting up on tables in the Market in spring of 1975 and then added 14k gold jewelry in 1977.
How did your business evolve? We rented the Market’s storage closet in 1977 and remodeled into a little shop. It enabled us to securely stock and sell more 14k gold merchandise. Glenn learned how to repair and eventually, how to design and make jewelry for the store. He designed many of our Charleston Charms and themed jewelry as well as our signature line of hand engraved jewelry. He also did custom work for people. We have gone through several store remodels, the last was in 2010.
What was the Market like in the early years? There weren’t really any tourists in the mid 70’s, just locals who would start roaming the Market as early as 6 AM. It was more like a flea market atmosphere or an antique mall. The Market was only open on Saturdays and eventually enough vendors wanted to open Sunday as well. We were among the first to start selling on weekdays, working 7 days a week. It was a fun time-lots of comradery amongst the venders, dickering and cajoling with customers over prices; an exciting and jovial atmosphere overall. Tourism began to grow about the same time the Spoleto Festival came to Charleston. Back then, the saying was, “Charleston is America’s Best Kept Secret”! Mayor Riley took office the same year we started the business and his vision helped instigate the thriving tourist economy we now see.
What are some of the highlights of having your own business? You’re in charge of your own future. You call the shots. You choose your own destiny. You know that everything you do, every decision you make is for the betterment of your own family (You’re not hitting the time clock for someone else). You work 365 days a year; you eat it, you sleep it, you dream it. Your children learn about the business ups and downs and they they learn to appreciate what they have. You work hard and can see the results and the benefits. You work as hard as you can to become as successful as you can. You’re able to choose what we sell; choose the direction in which to take your business. You’re able to follow trends while staying traditional. You get to help our customers create and build their collections of personal jewelry.
You’re able to help people choose special gifts and souvenirs. You choose your own team of employees and develop them into what you need in your business. You give them skills they might not gain otherwise – like instilling confidence and poise, being able to talk to complete strangers and how to deal with human nature – pleasant and otherwise, like learning about different types of jewelry, karat gold, gemstones, custom work. Like selling, purchase ordering, shipping, merchandising. Like understanding how a small business operates. Like learning how a small FAMILY business works.
What is the most rewarding part of having Gold Creations? We get to add a little sparkle to a tourist’s day. We send them to our favorite restaurants; we share tidbits of Charleston history; we regale them with funny stories and the history of our little family business – we try to endear them to us- many will remember their visit to us and many, many will return year after year.