Chipley jeweler Robert Sapp has worked in Downtown Chipley for 60 years and recently reflected on the changes and growth he’s seen in the area. “I look for good things to happen to Chipley,” he said. [OFF MY FRAME PHOTOGRAPHY]

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For 60 years, Chipley jeweler Robert Sapp has been a mainstay of the downtown business community.

His decades of community involvement were recently celebrated during this month’s Thursday Night Lights held in Downtown Chipley Thursday, May 16.

Sapp spoke about his legacy in an interview with Thursday Night Lights and local videographer Off My Frame Photography.

“It started at the Vance Theater May 1, 1964,” he said.

The interview was conducted by fellow downtown business figure Kristin Martin, who called his 60 years on Main Street a “huge accomplishment.”

Sapp said there has been “a lot of difference” in those 60 years.

“The main thing is people worked different and we were proud to have a job,” he said. “We enjoyed working and I still enjoy working. It’s the reason I’ve been here 60 years.”

Vance also ran the Starlight Drive-In, which was open two days a week. Sapp has worked with Sapp’s Jewelry for 44 years.

On the difference in downtown infrastructure over the years, Vance said initially there were eight or nine businesses that were vacant.

“Now, you’re filling them up. You’ve got a few businesses that are mom-and-pop coming back to Downtown Chipley,” Sapp said. “You need that because that’s the way that a town will grow.”

Wal-Mart coming to Chipley has helped the area, he said.

“I’ve grown. I started with $150 when I bought the Vance Theater and I came up in the time you could go to the bank and got a loan on a handshake,” Sapp said. “That’s the way I got a loan to do what I’ve done downtown.”

People can’t do that today, he said. Sapp also said people could buy cars in Dothan and get loans from the bank ahead of time over the phone.

Vance bought the Vance Theater 10 years after he started there. His dad also owned a business on Main Street.

“In 1947, my daddy built a store out of used lumber where Chipley Food Mart stands today, which is across from CVS,” Vance said. “You had a lot of mom-and-pop small stores.”

There was also a caution light and dirt road in the area. Gasoline used to be 18 cents a gallon.

“Kerosene was nine cents a gallon, which they cooked on,” he said. “They heated on kerosene. The cook stoves were run on kerosene.”

Sapp said he has had bad years.

“People, when they have a bad year, they quit,” he said. “You can’t quit.”

Sapp is also a Christian.

“If you will study the Scriptures, you will keep going,” he said. “You’ll push forward, never give up, and look for a better day coming.”

People don’t realize how far society has come, Sapp said.

“Part of society this day and time just holds their hand out and says, ‘My name’s Jimmy, what you going to give me?’” Sapp said. “That’s the problem we’ve got with society today. Too much of that’s going on.”

Sapp has eight boys and five girls, in terms of children. He has 42 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“We try to keep in mind what Christmas is all about,” he said. “We make a big deal over their birthdays.”

Some of his kids have accompanied him to work.

“I look for good things to happen to Chipley,” he said. “I understand they’re going to build sidewalks, take out shrubbery, put a facelift on Chipley. They’re tearing down old buildings. If they’re not going to do anything with them, they might as well tear them down. Let’s look at it realistically.”

Sapp said he can trust people in a small town like Chipley.

“We’ve got a few more things going for us than other small towns around us,” he said. “We’re doing a lot better. We should uplift one another, not tear down.”