~story and photos by Paige Langenderfer
Nearly 50 years ago, Carol and Al Drake left Florida for Nashville in their rusted out car with a dream of making and selling quality, custom jewelry.
“We didn’t have much,” Carol said. “Maybe $200 and a dog with a broken leg.”
Forty-six years later, the Drake’s store Touch of Silver, Gold & Old is a staple in the community. The store’s combination of unique and custom jewelry and excellent customer service sets it apart in today’s sea of jewelry stores offering mass produced, unoriginal items.
While Al and Carol have loved the journey, they said it has not always been easy. The business was imagined when the two were at a flea market in Florida.
“We saw this jewelry made out of spoons and thought, ‘We can do better than that,’” Al said. “It was all trial and error at first.”
Shortly after starting the business, they moved to Bloomington so Carol could finish her degree. They quickly noticed the tremendous business opportunity waiting just one county over in Nashville.
“On the weekends, we would go to Nashville and set up our jewelry stand under an umbrella in front of the Gypsy Pot on North Van Buren Street,” Al said. “We made jewelry during the week and sold it at the stand on the weekends.”
Two years later, they found a new location in the former Alberts’ Mall.
“It was literally in the kitchen,” Carol said. “I remember taking the doors off of the cabinets so that we could display our jewelry in the cabinets.”
As the business began to grow, Carol focused on bead jewelry and Al expanded from spoon jewelry to more advanced forms of jewelry making. He took art classes in silversmithing and soldering. He even took a class offered by Reese Nichols Jewelers that was taught by an elderly German jewelry craftsman. He read books, experimented, and continually sought opportunities to learn and grow.
“I like being creative and working with all of the precise materials,” Al said. “There is always something new to learn. I also like knowing that I am making something that people like.”
While the store sells items made by other artisans and items that Al and Carol buy at estate sales, the most sought after pieces still remain those crafted by Al.
“We can’t keep them on the shelf. They sell out immediately,” Carol said. “And he always has a list a mile long of custom orders.”
While he enjoys every piece he makes, there are a few that stand out in his mind as extra special, like the hand crafted wedding rings he made for himself and Carol. He also has crafted communion chalices for churches, a petit four cake stand in the shape of The Joshua Tree, and wedding rings for three generations in one family.
Touch of Silver remained at Alberts’ Mall for seven years, then moved into a historic, refurbished bank in downtown Nashville. In 2006, after 24 years in the bank, it outgrew that location and moved across the street to 87 East Main Street.
Featuring a wide selection of fine jewelry, precious stones, and estate jewelry, Touch of Silver offers something for everyone. The shop will also do silver and gold repairs, ring sizing, and stone polishing.
“We think it is very important to have something at all price points so that everyone can enjoy a nice piece of well-made jewelry,” Carol said.
That selection and Al’s skills have kept customers coming back for years.
“There are not many stores around anymore that have a working jeweler,” Carol said. “And honesty and quality are very important to customers. If you don’t trust your jeweler you won’t go back. Our customers have been incredibly loyal.”
Over the years both Al and Carol have won many awards in their respective fields, Al for his silver and goldsmithing, and Carol for her photography and window displays.
The thing Carol is most proud of—aside from running a successful business with her husband—is creating the store’s annual charitable sale. For one month each year, a percentage of all sales at Touch of Silver and Gold are donated to a local charity. The charity changes each year.
“This community has given so much to us that we wanted to be able to give back,” Carol said. “It has been a lot of fun creating the theme each year and seeing all of the customers coming in to support the cause.”
Both Al and Carol plan to continue working and running the store for as long as they can. Neither looks forward to any sort of retirement.
“We love what we do. We love meeting new people and connecting with our long time customers,” Carol said. “We never want to take anything for granted because we started with nothing.”