Standing outside the blue-painted, cedar-planked Precious Restorations shop on John Street, a place that looks like an Old West saloon, is a building filled with history and nostalgia. When moving the shop from South End to Matthews, Jack Marble Jr. and his father, Jack Marble Sr., found the building offered a large interior space, ample parking and an excellent location on a heavily-trafficked main street. The mid-century building built in 1947, is on-brand for the vintage wares sold inside.
Looking through the large front windows, an old stop light and a strand of glass fishing buoys just inside give a feel like it’s an off-the-wall shop in Plaza Midwood, not Matthews. Walk through the front door of Precious Restorations (315 W. John St.) though, and you’re greeted with a deep voice from a corner, “How are you?” It’s the neighborly, down-to-earth vibe of Matthews.
There’s nothing stuffy about the shop, just a faint odor of old papers, the recognizable smell of vinyl records, and epoxy.
Jack’s voice is the one coming from a desk to the right. He looks up and smiles, chats, but continues working on the restoration of the day. On this day it’s a teapot with a broken handle. Jack gets to a stopping point, comes over and shakes my hand. His firm handshake a sharp contrast to the delicate teapot he’s carefully piecing back together.
On this slow morning, Jack has some time to talk, noting the few antiques dotting the floor, reminiscent of his antique dealer father’s legacy. Of the very few true antiques for sale are a vintage victrola and some other brown, well-aged pieces of furniture. Lining the walls are the crates and crates of well-organized records and CDs. In the center of the room are a vast collection of comics, the usual Marvel and DC. The more valuable ones are on display in glass cabinets alongside Star Wars collectibles and estate jewelry.
Ask Jack about himself and it’s apparent: he’s far less comfortable taking center stage, a clue to how deeply entwined he is with his work. In a shop full of treasures, he has little attachment to the cool toys and pottery all around. He’s more interested in sharing the stories: how things ended up with him, and, for more unique pieces, he’ll explain the original use. He knows the provenance of the antique display cabinets which may look familiar to those who have been in Matthews for a while. The large wood and glass boxes came from Holiday Haus, a since-closed antique shop that was once on Trade St in downtown Matthews.
Visit long enough and Jack will use his uncanny ability to get you to share your story, keeping the focus off himself. He’s trained in music and loves to listen to all sorts, but can’t peg a genre that’s a favorite. Though not a fan of gangster rap, there’s something of a twinkle in his eyes that hints he just hasn’t heard the right album yet.
Get him started on restoration work and his face lights up. He’s got a wall lined with paintings to bring back to their vibrant, original state, and it’s evident that’s where his heart is. “I love to bring things back to life, to beautify things,” he said. “To take something that’s like a piece of rubble… and bring it back to form.” He gets up to 10 repairs a week - everything from porcelain and furniture, to lamp repairs and fine art. Basically what he is given, he learns how to fix.
The man knows his work and through that, he’s getting to know the people of Matthews. He knows the customers who come in, like Jim who shops for Grateful Dead albums, and Aana Lisa, who uses Jack for all of her restorations. He knows about her home (the one that was recently moved across Fullwood) and her history in town. He laughs, clearly proud of the connections he’s made, “See? I’m learning!” It’s that ability to find friendships in the community that makes Jack Marble Jr.'s Precious Restorations so very Matthews.
Photo by Charles Lybrand