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Gold Rush started with a single tent

August 13th, 2012 11:24 am by Cindy Harmon

Gold Rush started with a single tent

Eric Kennedy's older brother, Justin, and their father, John, serve as consultants to the enterprise. Between the three of them, they have a combined 45 years of experience in the jewelry business.

Entrepreneur Eric Kennedy has the Midas touch... literally.

His business idea grew from very modest beginnings.

"I was working in the health industry and I began buying gold part-time from my friends. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue this new opportunity and, three years ago, started my own business with just a sign and a small tent in Gate City," the Kingsport native said.

Armed with a fold-up table, a scale and a dream, he set up shop near a pizza parlor and waited. Soon, one car would stop, then another. After clients told their friends about the likable and honest young man they had dealt with, commerce really took off. Kennedy moved out of that tent a week later and eventually into his flagship building Gold Rush, the big yellow building at the corner of Eastman Road and Fort Henry Drive, paying people cash for gold.

"A lot of people need cash for bills, vacations and especially the holidays. We buy silverware and flatware, U.S. coins (1964 and older) and jewelry in any condition," the Dobyns-Bennett graduate said. "If you aren’t wearing it and it’s just sitting in your drawer, it could be cash in your pocket. And we do pay cash, on the spot, not checks. But there’s never any pressure to sell. You can check around for prices if that makes you happy."

The success of Eric’s business venture garnered the attention of his father, John, a gemologist in Kingsport for three decades - having worked at several local jewelry stores including 4C’s and Harrington’s.

"It’s ironic," the patriarch chuckled. "I used to take people’s money and give them jewelry and now I take people’s jewelry and give them money."

Initially, Eric’s older brother, Justin, along with his father were partners with Eric. Now, John and Justin serve as consultants to the enterprise. Between the three of them, they have a combined 45 years of experience in the jewelry business.

Success is no stranger to the Kennedy family. Eric’s grandfather, Pat, ran Kennedy’s Auto Center in downtown Kingsport for nearly a half a century.

"I was amazed at how many hundreds of people came to my grandfather’s funeral," Eric said, "A lot of people knew him, loved him and respected him."

Kennedy wants to carry on the tradition started by his grandfather. He is proud of his stores, and wants you to feel comfortable and have a good experience when selling your gold.

"I want everyone to know that we are a reputable company. We love building relationships with our clientele. People trust us and come back to us because they know we are telling them the truth about their jewelry," said Crystal Short, operations manager. "We will check an item for them at no cost and let them know the value of what they’ve got."

Inspired by "Storage Wars" and other reality shows, people are buying storage units, going to garage sales and visiting flea markets looking for gold to buy and re-sell.

"That’s where a lot of our repeat customers come from," said Kennedy. "In 1970, the price of gold was around $35 an ounce, today it’s skyrocketed upwards of $1,600 an ounce. You could be sitting on a fortune and might not even know it."

Gold Rush is located at 1700 Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport. They’re open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Call 423-343-9685, or go to for more information.

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