WEST PARIS — Following a seasonal shutdown, the owner of Perham’s has made the difficult decision to close the business for good.

The store, which sold minerals and gems as well as books and equipment for prospecting, was opened in 1919 by Stanley Perham. In December, Stanley’s daughter and current owner Jane Perham said she would close the store until June 1, but the business did not reopen.

Perham will hold a closing sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 3 through 5.

It’s a big change in my world, and not one I wanted,” she said. “This has not been an easy decision, and it’s not been a decision that’s easily reached.”

Perham said the store has always been a family business. Her brother has worked in mining materials in area quarries. In another mineralogy venture, her grandfather started a feldspar mine after accidentally discovering a rich deposit on his property.

Perham herself has been a full-time employee since 1964 and worked part time prior to that. She earned a graduate gemologist title from the Gemological Institute of America in 1972, and turned down an offer to teach at the institute in favor of returning to the store.

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She said she had considered closing the store for the past three years. Her decision was influenced by the recent downturn in the economy and difficulties in the gem market. She said there has been a decline in tourism to inland Maine.
“The tourism isn’t here anymore,” Perham said. “There used to be a continuous flow of tourists from June to October.”

The store sold local gems and minerals and pieces from around the world. Perham said the area is rich in pegmatite, a rock composed of quartz, feldspar, and mica. The slow cooling of such materials allows crystals to grow. Green tourmaline mined on Mt. Mica was the store’s specialty when it was founded.

The store was featured in Reader’s Digest in 1957; Perham said recent visitors still arrived with copies of the issue. Yankee Magazine also cited Perham’s as “The Best Place to Rock” in Maine in their May-June issue.

In addition to the store, the business includes a museum display of gems and minerals unearthed at local quarries. Perham and her father have sent samples to the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

The pieces in the museum display will be given to a private party who will keep them in Maine. Perham said her brother was hoping to keep the quarries he owns open for public access as long as they are covered by liability insurance.

Perham said interaction with visitors has been the best part of her job, including children who have come into the store curious about a mineral they’ve found.

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“I’ve learned so much from my visitors,” Perham said. “It just has been so meaningful to be an important part of our visitors’ lives.”

Dennis Creaser, co-owner of Creaser Jewelers in Paris and a former bench jeweler and designer for Perham’s, was saddened to hear of the store’s imminent closing.

“We feel that the area is going to be missing something,” he said. “Perham’s has been a huge part of what makes the Oxford Hills special for almost 100 years.”

Creaser said more action must be taken to promote tourism in the area and businesses in the state. He recalled how the showroom at Perham’s was packed with visitors from Independence Day to Labor Day when he worked there.

“I think tourism is going to hurt,” he said. “It’s just one less thing that makes us someplace that you’d want to go visit.”


Betty Jones, president of the West Paris Historical Society, said Perham’s had helped put the town on the map.

“We hate to be losing the last of the landmarks,” Jones said. “I just never thought of it closing, I guess. It’s been here for so long.”

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