The following article appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal on Saturday, September 10, 2011. It describes what it was like for Rusty and Marie Goe, owners of Southgate Coins, to open a coin shop in a Reno on September 11, 2001.
Coin store owner reflects on Sept. 11 opening
By Bill O’Driscoll
Rusty Goe eagerly anticipated flipping the “on” switch proclaiming Southgate Coins was open for business. Then came events a continent away that morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Everything was in place. The tech guys finished on Sept. 10,” Goe said. “We were supposed to be here at 7:30 to meet with the contractors, then we got a call from a neighbor telling us to turn on the TV.”
He and his wife, Marie, turned on the TV and saw New York’s World Trade Center on fire. Seconds later, they watched the second jetliner enter the picture.
“We didn’t get down here till close to 8, and we brought a portable TV with us,” Goe said. “I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was panic-stricken. Then someone said, ‘You know, until someone says something different, let’s proceed as planned.’”
So the “Open” sign went on, but the pall cast from the East Coast spread over their modest building at 5032 S. Virginia St., in the Coliseum Meadows shopping center, where those who came in could talk about little else than the terrorist attacks.
“All day long, we’d just talk about what happened,” Goe said. “We just put business aside. We were not obsessed with ringing up the cash register.
“The thought in my mind was, what if we’d opened in New York City? Here we are, 3,000 miles away, and we’re affected. It was hard to get your arms around what you were thinking.”
The enormity of that Tuesday and the uncertainties sank in fast about the impacts on the country, the economy and a small family business of selling rare coins and collectibles.
What would it do to the metals markets? People’s incomes and investments? The upcoming holiday spending season? Government in general?
“All these things, they’re going through your mind,” Goe said. “Everything was in a state of flux. No one could predict anything.”
Especially demand for precious metals amid the crashing stock markets.
“People flee to precious metals in a crisis,” he said. “But we were surprised, gold and silver went up just a little bit. We were thinking a dramatic rise, but it really didn’t happen.”
Slowly over the subsequent days, resolve set in. Goe, who had moved his coin business to Reno after 13 years in Las Vegas, said he discussed it with his wife and their two employees.
“All you had to do was look at what they were doing in New York City. They weren’t moping,” he said. “They were all saying, ‘Let’s go forward.’”
The Goes did, too, and made it through the rough holiday season for retailers in Reno as well as across the U.S.
“The more things went forward, it inspired us,” Goe said.
A decade later, the Goes and Southgate Coins will celebrate 10 years in business next week with much to show:
They’ve doubled their space in the building that was formerly home to Cowtown Boots just north of Meadowood Mall.
Sales have exceeded what they achieved in Las Vegas. “We never thought that would happen,” Goe said.
Goe has published a book, “Southgate Coins, Success on South Virginia Street,” including 545 photographs documenting their growth since their fateful opening day. “It’s like a diploma to me,” he said.
What really swells his chest are his employees. Goe said he’s had 55 college students work for him at one time or another since opening.
“We felt that’s the way we can support the community,” he said.
“No one can take these last 10 years from us,” he said. “The way in which we started left us in doubt. People say, you must have had a good business plan. Well, no.
“We believed that all the U.S., not just me, could conquer whatever it was. That was the spirit we had. Let’s dig ourselves out of this terrible hole. We really didn’t have an option.”
Image courtesy of Tim Dunn at RGJ.