In a family of jewelers, he cut a different path
Plus: New Truist tower signs slammed online; CMS asks parents to return transportation survey; Last Charlotte-area Sears closes; Socially distant Santa arrives at SouthPark
The Charlotte Ledger is an email newsletter delivering smart and essential news to the Charlotte region. We offer free and paid subscription plans. Sign up today:
Editor’s note: Because of Thanksgiving, the next regular edition of The Ledger will be Monday, Nov. 30. Have a restful and safe holiday.
Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by Count on Me CLT. To help save lives, jobs and businesses, please wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands often. Visit CountOnMeCLT.com for more information.
His brothers sell engagement rings and estate jewelry. Irvin Perry and his wife, Melanie, forged a community selling BBQ and bait at a Mint Hill convenience store.
Irvin Perry (left) and wife Melanie opened Perry’s Market in 1979. While his three brothers forged careers in the jewelry and gold industry, Irvin and Melanie built a convenience store business on Wilgrove Mint Hill Road.
by Cristina Bolling
It’s near the end of the morning rush, around 9:30 a.m. on a cool November Wednesday, and Perry’s Market off Albemarle Road in Mint Hill is humming. Customers rush in for a gas fill-up, cigarettes or a lottery ticket, and a quick hello.
Irvin Perry and his wife, Melanie, are behind the counter, cashing a check for a harried construction worker. Behind them is a refrigerator filled with cartons of redworms and night crawlers on sale for $4. A few feet away sits a wooden crate bigger than a washing machine. It’s chirping, full of live crickets.
Say the name “Perry’s” to anyone who’s lived in Charlotte for any length of time, and they’ll assume you’re talking about the SouthPark jewelry store, Perry’s Diamonds & Estate Jewelry, that’s a household name thanks to prolific radio ads and owner Ernest Perry’s visibility in the community.
Irvin Perry is part of that family. In fact, he’s the only one of four brothers who didn’t seek his fortune in the jewelry industry — not because of any family rift, but because he chose to stay put on a business path he says he enjoys.
For the last 41 years, he and Melanie have traded in gasoline, lottery tickets, bait and tackle, barbecue sandwiches, pine straw, propane, tomato plants, beer, groceries and any other goods customers come asking for that the couple figures they can sell.
To people who live in Mint Hill or travel through frequently, “Perry’s” means these Perrys, who have created a community of employees and customers who they say have become more like family.
“The sign out front pretty much sums it up,” Melanie Perry says, smiling broadly: “The little store with a whole lot more.”
PIG PICKIN’ BBQ AND BAIT: There’s a dizzying array of offerings at Perry’s Market — the convenience store sells everything from face masks to beer, barbecue and T-shirts, and includes a check-cashing business.
A different kind of calling: Irvin Perry grew up in the Oakhurst section of east Charlotte in a family of four boys and two girls, raised by a father who was a plumber and a mother who was an operating room nurse.
He remembers his older brother, Ernest, getting his start in the jewelry business by working at jewelry franchise the Jewel Box in SouthPark. Another brother started working at the company’s location in Statesville. Soon enough, three of the four brothers were pursuing careers in the jewelry and gold business.
Meanwhile, Irvin Perry, the second of the four sons, was in the grocery business. He was 27 when he was the produce manager at the Harris Teeter on Albemarle Road and hit it off with Melanie, who was the store’s head cashier.
Soon after marrying, they adopted a toddler, their niece. A few years later, in the spring of 1979, they had a baby girl who was 4 months old when a friend gave them some news: A superette, or small supermarket, on Wilgrove Mint Hill Road was up for sale.
They dreamed of taking what they’d learned in their jobs at Harris Teeter and forging out with a business of their own. Melanie worried the sale wouldn’t go through if the seller knew they had an infant. They didn’t mention the baby during negotiations.
A lawyer who was a close friend of Harris Teeter co-founder William Thomas Harris sat down with them with a warning: Do you realize what you’re getting into? The workload will be demanding.
Tough start, then fish-and-tackle expansion: And he was right. They worked long hours, seven days a week. They turned the back room into a playroom for their daughters.
If they were going to make it work, they realized, they were going to have to pump all their earnings back into the business. They took out a second mortgage of $7,500 to pay the bills, which might not sound like a lot today but felt overwhelming at the time. “It might as well have been $20 million,” Melanie Perry says.
They became known for their fresh produce up front and their butcher shop in the back. They added gas pumps a couple of years later. As big grocery stores started moving into the area, they got out of the produce and butcher business and added the deli.
In the early 1980s, they opened a second shop — a fish and tackle store — in a strip mall around the corner. Melanie worked at the fish and tackle store, while Irvin managed Perry’s.
‘It wasn’t me’: When Irvin’s brother Ernest opened his own jewelry store in the 1980s, he offered Irvin the chance to try his hand working there to earn a little extra money.
“I worked for him one week and I said, ‘I’ve got to go back to the convenience store,’” Irvin Perry laughs. “It wasn’t me. I’d already had the feeling of self-employment — this was what I was going to keep doing.”
There were no hard feelings.
Melanie helped Ernest start an ebay wing of his business. They joke about the differences in their callings. Ernest owns the SouthPark jewelry store, while Alan Perry owns Perry’s Emporium jewelry store in Wilmington, and Coleman Perry owns Perry’s Gold Mine shops in West Jefferson, N.C., and east Charlotte.
“You know what we tell them sometimes?” Melanie Perry asks, grinning. “When times get hard, they’re not going to be able to eat those diamonds.”
Dedicated following: Irvin Perry is 71 now, and Melanie is 66. Their store looks a lot different than it did when they opened it 41 years ago; a carry-out deli featuring made-on-site barbecue now sits in the back corner where the meat counter once was. They don’t have produce, but they do have a huge supply of bait and tackle. (They closed the bait and tackle store during the 2008 recession and moved much of the inventory to Perry’s Market.)
Irvin and Melanie Perry have a crop of veteran employees, all of whom have worked there 10 years or more. Melanie’s mom, 86-year-old Sally Newman, loves seeing customers so much she comes in almost daily.
The store is closed on Sundays. “We don’t have anybody who wants to work, so we just said heck with it,” Melanie Perry said.
The Mint Hill area, like much of the Charlotte region, is growing. New home communities are springing up within a few miles of Perry’s.
The old characters still come in, including “the coffee club,” as Irvin Perry calls it — men who show up early in the morning “to drink coffee and solve all the world’s problems.”
New faces are mixing in, too.
“When I see a customer coming in and I know they smoke a certain cigarette, I’ll have the cigarettes laying on the counter for them,” Irvin Perry says, motioning a slap on the counter in front of him. “And they’ll say, ‘You know me too good.’”
Cristina Bolling is managing editor of The Ledger: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s supporting sponsors are T.R. Lawing Realty…
… and Landon A. Dunn, Attorney at Law in Matthews:
Internet pans new Truist building signs
Truist used a helicopter to hoist new signs atop its bank building (formerly known as the Hearst Tower) over the weekend. If you were anywhere near uptown on Saturday, it was hard to miss.
The final result, though — signs on all four sides of the building, two that say “TRUIST” and two with the bank’s interlocking logo — was widely panned on social media.
Behold, the new look of uptown Charlotte’s Truist Center, following Saturday’s installation of signs at the top of the building. Not everyone is a big fan.
Comments from around the web included:
“It is like a bad Photoshop job.”
“Is that real? It looks like a child made it.”
“Were they trying to find something that clashed with the building design?”
“It looks like somebody typed out TRUIST on the world’s largest label maker and then just slapped it on the side of the building.”
Who approved them: Truist won approval from the city this summer to install the signs. The city’s planning department found the sign request consistent with center city development plans, and the zoning committee that consists of Charlotte residents voted 4-3 to recommend approval, too, though the three voting against worried the signs would detract from the building’s Art Deco design and the city’s skyline. Nobody spoke in opposition at a June public hearing, and the full City Council voted unanimously in July to approve the rezoning request.
Truist bought the 47-story building in March for $456M.
In Charlotte, things that appear questionable or objectionable tend to become routine and accepted as time passes. Some of us have been here long enough to recall the shock when the big pink building in South End, The Arlington, went up in the early 2000s. Now that “Pepto-Bismol” building is part of the mix. You could say the same about the construction of Calvary Church, or about Truist’s name, or Atrium’s. We object initially then become accustomed to them.
Writing tip: Although the word “signage” has become popular, you can almost always use “sign” or “signs” as a more straightforward alternative. Choosing simple and concrete words rather than more complex and abstract ones strengthens your writing. —TM
Attention CMS parents: Fill out that survey about whether you need the bus
If you’ve got a child in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, make sure this is on your to-do list: fill out the district’s transportation enrollment form saying whether your child needs a bus this school year. The deadline to submit the online form is Nov. 30.
This month, the school board voted to delay sending middle schoolers back to classes until Jan. 5 because administrators said the district doesn’t have enough bus drivers to get all the middle schoolers to class while maintaining social distancing requirements.
So last week, the district rolled out a survey all families must fill out to let CMS know if their kids need to ride the bus during the second semester (which starts Jan. 5), or if they’ll be car riders. The information CMS gets will help determine how to deploy buses most efficiently, and how many drivers are needed to get elementary, middle and high school students to class starting Jan. 5.
CMS posted a caution for parents of students in pre-K through fifth grade: “If your child has not ridden the bus as of November 20, 2020, and the transportation enrollment is not completed, we will remove your child’s name from the bus roster and they will not receive a bus stop assignment for the second semester.”
Administrators and school board members have asked parents to plan to drive their children if at all possible to save room on buses, and to mark their surveys accordingly. More information is here.
Also of note: Nov. 30 is the deadline to switch your child into or out of the CMS all-remote academy for the second semester. You can contact your school on that one. — CB
That photo with Santa will look different this year
HO-HO-HOW MANY FEET APART? Santa arrived at SouthPark Mall for photos this weekend, and he wore a mask and sat on a couch by himself as children sat on a giant wrapped present a few feet in front. Santa is making appearances at several Charlotte-area malls this year, and reservations are “strongly encouraged.” The same company that handles Santa scheduling is also offering an at-home “Holiday Magic Package” that includes a “VIP Live Video Call with Santa” on Zoom (starting at $99.99).
Sears closes: The last full-service Sears store in the Charlotte region, at Carolina Mall in Concord, is closing. The struggling retailer still has appliance outlets in Concord and on South Boulevard in Charlotte. (Concord Independent-Tribune)
Media lawsuit: Gaston County is suing the Gaston Gazette newspaper over what it said was a “defamatory story” published this month that said commissioners approved workers compensation settlements behind closed doors. The Gazette is owned by Gannett Co. Gaston County is being represented by Jeremy Stephenson of Charlotte. (WFAE)
Schools and Covid: In a long Facebook post on Sunday night, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board chair Elyse Dashew explained CMS procedures on Covid cases in schools, including reporting, contact tracing and notifications. (Facebook)
Schools still a go: Despite rising Covid numbers, having in-person instruction in schools still makes sense, Mecklenburg County deputy health director Raynard Washington said Friday. At a news conference, he said the county is watching the numbers closely but that “we are not seeing a great deal of transmission connected with the schools. At this time, we have not changed our guidance to the school district. We still support them having in-person instruction.”
New owner for Birkdale: Birkdale Village in Huntersville has been sold to new owners, Cincinnati-based North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, the Charlotte Business Journal reported. The sales price was not disclosed and not yet available through public records. The new owners plan “a range of investments at the property, including events and programming, new merchandising and renovations at the apartments.” (Biz Journal)
Novant and UNC collaborate on medical education: Novant Health and the UNC system announced plans to strengthen their ties and expand medical education at Novant facilities in Mecklenburg and Forsyth counties. The details are still being worked out, but it sounds as though it involves UNC School of Medicine students completing clinical rotations at Novant hospitals. (N.C. Health News)
N.C. unemployment drops: North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to a pandemic-low 6.3% in October, down from 7.3% in September, as private employers added more than 36,000 jobs. (Winston-Salem Journal)
Slower demand for air travel: American Airlines has seen a “dampening of demand,” company president Robert Isom said late last week, as Covid numbers increase and health officials warn against traveling. Nationally, Friday and Saturday were two of the busiest air travel days since March, though the number of passengers is still down about 60% from a year ago. (Wall Street Journal)
No quick office return: Many of uptown Charlotte’s biggest employers have not yet set dates for workers to return to the office. (Observer)
Talking to teens at Thanksgiving? We’ve got you covered.
Are you going to be around teenagers over Thanksgiving? Or talking to them on Zoom?
Let us lend a hand: Download and print out The Ledger’s Teen Talk Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet, and you can flex your new knowledge and start vibin’ with those younger relatives in no time. Watch their eyes light up — or at least roll 🙄 — as you attempt to speak their native language!
Afterward, why not drop us a line and tell us how it went? We’ll share some of our readers’ experiences in a future edition.
Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:
Need to sign up for this e-newsletter? We offer free and paid subscription plans:
The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and website publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business-y news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.
Sponsorship information: email email@example.com.
Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Reporting intern: David Griffith