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Garrett Peddicord, jeweler, linguist and owner of Athena Arms, poses for a photo July 24 outside the company building at 3403 Samson Way.

For Garrett Peddicord, it turned out, diamonds weren’t forever.

Although the forging and sale of jewelry was his first love — and, at the tender age of 16, his first profession — subsequent years saw the Baltimore native become an Air Force linguist (Persian Farsi-Iran, Persian Dari-Afghanistan and Tajik-Tajikistan), and now owner of Athena Arms at 3403 Samson Way.

Peddicord opened his doors about two months ago in the building formerly occupied by the Take Aim firing range. The range remains as active as ever, although Peddicord and his staff of four have added gun sales and training programs certified by the United States Concealed Carry Association.

“Part of the reason I genuinely believe in arming good people is that it effectively levels the playing field,” Peddicord said. “And who needs such a tool the most? Women, the elderly, those otherwise unable to defend themselves for whatever reason.”

It took a long time for Peddicord, 37, to arrive in the self-defense business. The path to Bellevue from his Maryland upbringing as the middle child of a single father was paved with gold and diamonds, but only because he made it so.

“I was already interested in working at the age of 14 and wanted to pick up a trade,” he said. “I just wanted to get out of the house and do stuff.”

He was fortunate enough to meet a goldsmith, bench jeweler and watchmaker who was sufficiently intrigued by the precocious 14-year-old to take him seriously. Two years later, Peddicord stood before the world, at the age of 16, a trained, apprenticed and fully certified jeweler.

At 19 he became general manager of a Zales jewelry store, and spent the next several years working for jewelry stores or running his own business as a freelance bench jeweler.

In 2004 he was hired to work at Brodkey’s Omaha Westroads store and then to manage their new Bellevue store at Wolf Creek, which opened in February 2005.

Three years later, at the age of 26, having established himself as a jeweler and having twice sold bench-jeweler businesses of his own creation, Peddicord ditched the diamonds.

He decided to become an Air Force linguist.

“I’ve always had an affinity for language, I just find it fascinating,” he said. “I just hadn’t had the structured environment, or the time afforded me, to get really good at it. ‘So,’ I said, ‘Would you mind paying to send me to this reputable school in California, the Defense Language Institute,’ which trains all the military branches.”

And they did, proving it never hurts to ask.

There, Peddicord, now 27, was immersed in a three-year immersion experience, a journey that provided him, in due course, with the ability to shock — and, he adds, delight — Afghans and Tajiks wholly unaccustomed to conversing with Americans.

“I enjoyed the shock on their faces when I would just chat with them,” he said. “I worked on the accent, to get that just right, so it sounded good. They were always astonished, and delighted.”

Eventually, he was assigned, as Peddicord said most linguists are, to Offutt Air Force Base, a homecoming of sorts for the former manager of the Bellevue Brodkey’s.

He had acquired a gun during his jeweler years — a prudent precaution, he said, given the attention jewelers sometimes get from criminals — and grew impressed with training courses offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, which he said far exceeded the quality of the course he took to obtain his concealed carry permit.

Last October, after serving 10 years, Peddicord separated from the Air Force. At that point, for several years, he had already operated a gun training and safety program from his Bellevue home and run a small gun store in Olde Towne.

When the Take Aim facility became available, Peddicord saw his chance. Now, a fully certified USCCA trainer, he hung out an “Athena” shingle, named for the Greek goddess whose affinity for peacemaking, but willingness, if necessary, to wage war, made her the namesake of Greece’s greatest city.

It is his intention, Peddicord said, to make Athena Arms a welcoming place.

“You can walk into virtually any firearms establishment in any town and you’re going to get that kind of cold, indifferent service with a stare,” he said. “And me coming from the jewelry business, it’s the opposite, you have to be inviting and friendly. We’re selling a luxury good here. Just be nice.”

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