Jan 07, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Foreclosed mortgages, repossessed cars, rising unemployment rates all spell trouble for everything from auto dealers to grocery stores. For those short on cash, the challenge has become how to turn that spiffy watch into gas money.
Pawn brokers are making come back, moving out of the shadow of the over-extended economy into the mainstream of Main Street commerce.
The image of a pawn shop may for many bring to mind shady characters and stolen goods, but in this downtrodden economy pawn shops can provide less expensive goods or quick access to cash.
In Eastwood, Jen Huner and Don Corey, who just opened Trade & Cash on James Street, said customers will confide a quick need for gas money or pocket cash as well.
But their business has not slowed lately, said Huner. After about six months on Burnet Avenue, the couple opened the James Street shop on Jan. 2 and have already had more business there than during their entire run at their first location.
“Location makes a big difference,” Huner said.
On the other side of the city, Joe, who preferred not to be identified further, co-owns 2 of a Kind on North Salina Street. He said business had slowed down around the holidays, but gas prices had also dropped.
“Winter time is always slow,” Joe said. When the price of gasoline goes up, so does business – he said often people looking to sell items tell him they need money for gas.
For Pawn King, a seven-location chain of pawn shops throughout the Syracuse area, location has little impact on business. Chris Fernandez, who co-owns Pawn King, said despite the changing economy the pawn business “stays the same.”
“The same people use pawn shops and there are some people that will never use them,” Fernandez said.
That may be due in part to a local law that both Joe and Huner noted, which prohibits pawn shops from running a buy-back or lay-away program. Under the law, pawn shops are not allowed to purchase items from customers with the intention of selling it back to them under a pre-arranged agreement.
If a customer sells a computer to Trade & Cash for $25, they can’t return a week later and expect to get their computer back for $25, Huner said, they would have to pay whatever price any other customer would have to pay.
One exception to this rule is CNY Sales in Liverpool, which was grandfathered in under the current law and runs a 30-day maximum buy-back program.
Looking for quick cash?
Electronics, audio equipment, computers and video games are all hot commodities in the pawn circuit, Huner said.
And although the value of gold has dropped in recent months, it is still bringing in a profit. Shops will collect gold pieces and scrap it, collecting as much as possible and selling it to another company to be melted down.
“Gold’s really what you make your money on,” Joe said.
“I don’t care if it’s in a million pieces, I want your gold,” she laughed.