BREMERTON — Wes Karry has been panning for gold since he was 9 years old.
Now, he and his son Kevin own West Coast Mining Supply, located in Manette, and helps teach others how to do the same.
“I’ve always wanted a shop of some kind of my own,” Karry said. “I finally reached an age to where I have to stop working so hard, so I thought, ‘Why not just open up a gold supply store?’ ”
In February, he did just that.
It didn’t take long for the business to outgrow its original “hole in the wall” space. In July, they moved to a larger location at 700 Lebo Blvd.
“I think we’ve pretty much maxed this out, now,” Karry said.
That’s because the community response to their business has been incredibly positive.
West Coast Mining Supply sells exactly what its name suggests: mining supplies. Tools to find treasure, dredges and metal detectors and more. But perhaps the best part of their business is the outings they take people on to mine for gold — for free.
“You just have to get yourself there and bring food for the day,” Kevin said. “We bring our equipment. If you have your own equipment, you can bring that.”
They go on one- or two-day outings to local areas where people can find gold. They have a few land claims for that purpose and plan on getting more. Currently, they go when weather and their schedule permits — they also operate a painting business — but Karry predicts the number of outings will only increase.
“This summer, we plan on cranking it up a lot more,” Karry said. “We’re getting a lot more people involved. And we started our own club, too. It’s called Puget Sound Mining Association. They can join the club. By the end of the summer, we’re planning on having at least eight claims. So that way, everybody’s got a place to go that’s ours.”
Even though they own the claim to the land, Karry said that whatever “treasures” people find on the free outings are theirs to keep: West Coast Mining Supply doesn’t take a share of it at all.
“And we always come back with gold,” Kevin added. “We do know the areas.”
The business is really a labor of love. When asked about the challenges of the job, the only answer either Karry could come up with was simply finding the time to take people out gold mining.
Wes Karry said his favorite part is “meeting people, getting out and having fun, showing them how to get gold.”
“Watching the excitement when they get the gold: ‘Found gold! There’s actually gold!’ That’s always fun,” he added.
The people they take on outings range from regulars and hobbyists, to people who have never been before or who are taking their kids for the first time.
“We try to get everybody,” Karry said. “We try to get people like you. Get out there and find it, have fun.”
And it’s not just mining: Kevin said people bring metal detectors or go rock hounding on the trail of the miners, looking for gems among the cleaned rocks.
In the future, Karry said he hopes the business will quadruple in size.
“Everybody that comes in here is like, glad to see you here,” he said.
“They come here all the time just to hang out,” Kevin added. “They get bored during the day, and say, ‘Let’s go see what these guys are doing.’ ”
Karry said he’s even considering removing the center display cases in the store and setting up a coffee bar, “so everybody has a place to sit, drink their coffee and talk, like an old barber-shop-type thing.”
“There’s no other store around that has this type of stuff,” Kevin said. “You can find a couple metal detectors here and there, but you can’t go into a store and look at a dredge, or pay dirt, stuff like that. So a lot of people around here that are into it, they’re loving that we’re here.
Karry added, “It’s amazing how many people come in here every day saying, ‘I used to do that with my grandpa’ or ‘my dad.’
“Families bring their kids out,” he said, “and they love it. They get into it, and they love it, they can’t stop. Once they start finding gold, they just go crazy with it.”
West Coast Mining Supply has grown exponentially since its doors opened nearly a year ago, and it seems destined to keep growing. Which is good, because Karry said the business is his retirement.
“I plan on being here,” he said. “(Kevin’s) going to take it after I’m done.”
Kevin answered, “I’ve already got my kids into it, too. So we’ll just keep passing it down.”
To learn more about West Coast Mining Supply, visit www.westcoastminingsupply.com. Get up-to-date information about outings and giveaways on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WestCoastMiningSupply.