Meet Your Merchant: Owner of Asylum Down takes over the adjacent business of an old friend |

Meet Your Merchant: Owner of Asylum Down takes over the adjacent business of an old friend

Peggy Peterson stands between the two stores she now owns — California Gold and Asylum Down. She recently purchased California Gold from Terry Mohr, an old friend who has opted to retire.
Cory Fisher/ |

California Gold

Specializing in gold in quartz, gold nugget jewelry and silver

300 Broad St., Nevada City


Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Open every day during the month of December.

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When Peggy Peterson first met Terry Mohr he was sitting on the grass selling crystals off of a blanket in Sonora.

Little did the two know they would go on to forge a friendship that has lasted more than 40 years and own successful Nevada City businesses side-by-side for more than two decades.

Twenty-two years ago, Peterson and Mohr decided to pare down their craft fair circuit and team up to rent a cavernous building — a former Bank of America branch — on the corner of Pine and Broad streets. The retail space had more recently been home to California Buttonworks, a generations-old company that manufactured custom campaign buttons. When the button company opted to move their plant to a cheaper location, Peterson and Mohr jumped at the chance to set up shop in a prime retail spot.

Mohr’s business was “California Gold,’ which sold high end custom gold jewelry. Peterson’s was “Asylum Down,” an import store that sold handmade goods and crafts made by artisans from all over the world.

“We decided to divide the space in half,” said Peterson. “So we just split the building down the middle and built a wall.”

The two shared the space for more than 20 years, until recently when Mohr decided he was ready to relinquish his day-to-day responsibilities and retire. Peterson offered to buy his business and he accepted. Thanks to a family inheritance, she had been able to buy the entire building a year and a half ago. Buying Mohr’s business as well was a natural step for Peterson.

“It just felt right,” she said. “I don’t really want to change much.”

Going forward, Peterson says California Gold will continue to work with the same renowned natural gold and quartz jewelers, Paul Quackenbush and Oly Schwarz. But she has now introduced a new distinctive collection of silver jewelry brought in by Peterson’s husband, Mohamed Aboubacar, who runs his own import business.

On display now is a new impressive selection of pieces made by members of the Tuareg tribe, who live in Aboubacar’s native hometown of Agadez in Niger. The Tuareg people generally inhabit the Sahara desert, in a vast area stretching from Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. For generations they have been internationally known for their hand hammered, meticulously engraved silver jewelry, often with symbolism and motifs reflective of their culture. The silver collection seemed like a nice complement to the store, said Peterson, despite making the name a bit of a misnomer.

“We’ll also be adding a new line of silver jewelry with gold nuggets,” said Peterson. “They’re made by various artists from the region. I like to think that we’re just adding more beautiful things to an already successful business.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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