|Magnolia Emporium’s flagship location, graced by a magnificent mural of Queen Charlotte, can be found at 307 Lincoln Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.|
The current vibrance and energy found in the Gold District of Charlotte, NC speaks to the efforts of a committed group of individuals who see not only business opportunity but also a collective effort to raise up a community. Many people believe that Sutter’s Mill in California was the epicenter of the North American Gold Rush, but, in fact, gold was discovered in the newly minted state of North Carolina 50 years before the 1849 stake was claimed in California. A Google search reveals that the North Carolina gold rush got off to a bit of a slow start in that the 17 pound gold nugget that Conrad Reed found near a creek on his family farm was not recognized for gold and was used as the family door stop for years. Once the true nature of the rock was identified, farmers in the area began to actively search their own properties for nuggets—after the crops were brought in, of course. While mining in the area is now primarily an activity for tourists—the Reed Gold Mine opened as an attraction in 1977, the Charlotte Gold District is catching its second wind with an urban rejuvenation project that has expanded from a modest 30 square acres to a bustling center of commerce that pushes the boundaries of nearly four times that acreage. And right smack in the middle of the action is an eclectic and exuberant shop known as the Magnolia Emporium.
Like a musician, Randolph James tunes his inventory according to the direction of his customers’ desires—combining his own expertise with a focused ear to the feedback that he receives. A demanding stickler for quality and innovation, he chooses to invest in the artistic community that dominates his business. This process has enabled his company to grow organically and retain a very high level of flexibility. “Listening to my customers and being open to their dreams and ideas is not only my natural tendency, but the core of my business success”, observed Randolph. “Magnolia Emporium is a gathering of what I would call well-researched treasure”. The eclectic presentation of colorful murals, evocative music and social outreach is Randolph’s commitment to community—and the effort is based on an unwavering need to embrace his interests without reservation but with plenty of research.
|Randolph James enjoys a level of interaction with his clients that enables him to pique their interest with diverse and playful wares.|
After two years of growth in the Charlotte location and seven years since inception, Randolph is establishing the foundation for expansion—not through franchising but through licensing of his concept of curated shopping. This approach will ensure that the quality of his brand and his commitment to community will travel with the outreach of his business. And it should come as no surprise that Randolph James has an innovative idea for managing and directly supporting the growth of his nascent empire. For years, he has maintained a digital file on recreational vehicles—a nostalgic love that connects him with his childhood and the people who are closest to his heart. In time, this research has narrowed to following the design and engineering decisions being made by Advanced RV in Willoughby, Ohio with great interest. “I could use my RV not only as my home away from home but as a way to bring samples of artwork and items that I’m excited about to my new locations”, said Randolph. “My life and my business are all about connecting with people.” A strong experiential knowledge of Mercedes vehicles was one element that attracted Randolph to the chassis used by Advanced RV but he was pleased to see that the engineering team at ARV was making decisions to improve on technology that even Mercedes had not perfected. “What if“? is a frequent question heard at the ARV shop. There is an unmistakable passion for excellence—starting with the highest quality components as well as seeking out and evaluating innovative technology. But it never stops there. It could be due to the inquisitive nature of a founder who always wants to know what’s over the next hill. It could be due to the incomparable relationship that ARV enjoys with its clients—who graciously share their ideas and articulate their dreams. Most likely, it is a combination of these and other factors that coalesce into a company that goes beyond creating a product and is actually in the business of enabling a lifestyle choice. Perhaps that synergy explains more of Randolph James’ attraction. “I have great respect for Mercedes”, said Randolph, “but their navigation system is really lagging as a feature. I’ve gathered every one of the instructional videos that ARV has posted to YouTube in a digital file and I was so pleased to see that they are addressing this issue”. The parallels between Randolph’s business and ARV bring him an additional sense of comfort as an artisan who has a strong appreciation for quality and engineering. “It is clear to me through ARV’s video posts that Mike Neundorfer is an engineer who has an appreciation for artisans and also that we share a commitment to listening, learning and exploring.”
|Perhaps the rigor of maintaining the acetylene lamps which required the owner to manage a chemical reaction between water and Calcium Carbide every time that lighting was desired was too much for the otherwise intrepid explorers who outfitted this ERV—[early RV].|
Is a desire for the RV lifestyle an inherited trait? Randolph James appreciates the fact that every Advanced RV is “curated” to its owners’ specifications. And while he is still in the planning stages for acquiring his own ARV, Randolph indulged in a true throwback bout of nostalgia to the powerful memories of his childhood and the joys of hitting the road with his family. The antique Model T Ford shown on the left was customized as a camper by the Ford Motor Company and found its way into Randolph’s father’s collection along with two others—all from the early 1900’s. Epitomizing the current concept of “glamping”, this custom configuration included a full tent, camping and cook gear. According to the travel log that the couple who commissioned this recreational vehicle maintained, these amenities were apparently insufficient to lure them out beyond the first year on the road.
The bus that is pictured on the right was lovingly upfitted by Randolph’s father even to the point of cutting off the roof and raising it up.
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