Joe C. Carter never let the times pass him by, but he’s 75 now and figures he’s ready to spend more of his time on civic affairs, volunteer work and, when he’s of a mind, hunting and fishing.
After 37 years – and three locations – Carter Jewelers is closing sometime in July. As the store winds down, the prices are, too. Carter is offering a 45 percent discount on most of his inventory. Some of what’s left will go to his son Robert’s jewelry store in Cheraw. Some will be consigned to other stores. Carter is just preparing to walk away after most of a lifetime in the jewelry business.
What is he leaving behind? Well, a diamond ring, for one thing.
Once Carter Jewelers was located in the building that has been refurbished and expanded into the Laurens County Courthouse.
“In the wall of the Courthouse, there was a crack,” Carter said. “I lost a 1/2-carat diamond ring in that wall, and I never got it out. I let it fall down in there, and I couldn’t get it.”
He reckons it’s still there today.
For nine years – after 14 years where the Courthouse now is and 14 more where Food Lion used to be – Carter has been at 810 E. Main St., Suite F. It’s the end of a long, distinguished path for Carter Jewelers and its owner.
He grew up in Gastonia, N.C., and joined the Army for three years. He wanted to stay and go to Officer Candidate School, but in his words, “it didn’t happen.”
“I had obligations,” Carter said. “I needed money, and I wasn’t making it in manufacturing. I worked in a cotton mill. I was making chain saws at that point, and a job came open there in Gastonia at a jewelry store. When I got that job, I didn’t know anything about selling or anything else. I was there for a couple months, and I moved to Greensboro, filled in here or there for managers taking vacation. From Greensboro, I went to Kay Jewelers. I became a manager in 1970.
“By then my attitude was, if I can do it, anybody can do it. I know it can be done. I had to train myself. I’ve taken courses on selling, ‘how to win friends and influence people,’ a lot of things like that, to expand my knowledge. I moved to Charlotte. I started hiring people and firing people. I was trying to get good people who would stay with the company. I learned to hire people who were career-oriented. I taught a number of them. A lot of them went on to do very well with the company. One went on to be vice president of the corporation.”
For Carter, it was time to make it on his own, and he came into his own in Laurens.
“The military taught me a lot about organization,” he said. “I saved my money, over time, and I taught myself to do jewelry repair. At one time, I had six different stores I was doing repairs for. I put all that money in the business over here. Robin Todd at Southern Bank was a guy who took a chance on me with a personal loan that got me off the ground. I could do something in Laurens that no one else was doing, and that was repair on the premises.
“If you believe in yourself, and you can do a job better than anybody else … it’s all about attitude. If you don’t have your name out there, no one’s going to know. Out of sight, out of mind. I learned that years ago. You want people talking.”
Now Carter, when he decides the time is right, the day is right and the course is run, is going to go on a vacation for a few weeks.
“I was going to do this a couple years ago, but the people you meet every day, that you interact with, I enjoy that,” he said. “Everybody who walks through the door, I like to know more about them. People will tell you things about themselves. If they ask me to pray for them, I’ll pray for them. That’s the way I look at it. Caring for other people.”
What are he and wife Linda going to do with themselves when they return from their vacation?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got projects I want to get done around home, but on the other hand, I like to hunt. I like to fish. I’ve got three acres of grass to cut and 50 acres of land. I’ll probably volunteer to do something around town. I want to be helpful.”
No change there.