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VOL. 116 | NO. 239 | Thursday, December 12, 2002

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Decades after Tom Phillips, as a child, uncovered a silver wine goblet amidst other discarded items in a neighborhood cleanup

New shop owners want to turn silver into gold


The Daily News

Decades after youngster Tom Phillips discovered a silver wine goblet among discarded items in a neighborhood cleanup effort, a dream hes had ever since has finally become reality.

Earlier this month, he and his wife, Lisa, opened the areas first store to offer exclusively sterling silver in many years.

A Silver Lining LLC offers thousands of primarily estate sale items ranging from a $35 sugar spoon to a $795 trophy.

But, just as important as its unique and sometimes rare merchandise, the Germantown store gives customers the opportunity to take their own journey of discovery, the Phillips believe.

In this day and age, (researching and finding) silver is a good way to keep our focus on where we are going and where we have been, Lisa said. Its our history.

She described the purchase of a silver piece as a good investment, and something tangible one can pass down from generation to generation.

Tom spent more than 20 years in the wholesale coin business, criss-crossing the nation for his work, all the while developing relationships with estate buyers and sellers of silver pieces.

Eventually, the Philips had collected, cleaned and stored enough silver pieces to open the store, after finding a successful market for the silver items when they offered pieces for sale in a corner of the Palladio Antique Market in Midtown in 2000.

We kept all these things with the dream to open this store one day and also be able to work together, Lisa said.

The new store primarily offers 19th and 20th century American-made silver from Reed and Barton to Kirk-Stieff to Francis I place settings. Among the items for sale at 7511 Queens Court No. 2 are coffeepots, teapots, lettuce forks and picture frames.

Both husband and wife find satisfaction in working professionally with items that represent something they are passionate about history.

On the business side, the sterling silver market endured a sharp increase in price from about $5 an ounce to about $50 an ounce in the early 1980s when a Texas family tried to corner the silver market by buying mass quantities of silver merchandise, Tom explained.

Consequently, many individuals and companies sold their stock of silver pieces, causing many silver retailers including some in the Memphis area to close their doors.

Since that spike, the market has made a steady rebound. Tom said investing in silver is not trendy, but is stable overall.

Ive never heard of a sterling silver shop going out of business unless the owner retired or passed away, he said.

The nearest exclusive sterling silver store is more than an hours drive from Shelby County, according to the Phillips.

The couple strategically chose to open A Silver Lining in Germantowns Market Square because of nearby stores aimed at capturing wedding-related business. Silver Linings neighbors include Tootsies Catering, Just Write, Sandra Stroh Photography and Todays Classic Design beauty salon.

Lisa said it is becoming more popular for brides to register with silver stores. The couple is hoping to gain substantial business from weddings.

Otherwise, the pairs customer base consists mostly of women between the ages of 50 and 70 many of whom want to purchase silver pieces either as gifts or for home decorating.

Silver market demand has spawned more than 200 Web sites available for customers to order items, a trend not lost on the new storeowners. They have plans to create a Web site of their own in the future.

While they value the power of the Internet, they believe enthusiasts handling a piece of shiny silver as opposed to only seeing a picture of an item on a computer will make all the selling difference.

I dont think a lot of people want to punch a button to get it, they want to touch it and see it, Lisa said.

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