A pawn shop chain moves upscale

Pawn America is one of a couple of large (for the pawn business) chains that started in the past generation. Most pawn shops, however, are still small, local and often mom-and-pop operations.

Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold fits the usual pattern.

This story from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press describes how Pawn America is trying to attract shoppers who have never tried a pawn shop’s retail operation by separating it from the lending operation.

Our Maui pawn shop

Brad Rixmann, pawnbroker

did that long ago. In fact, we are perhaps overseparated, with four locations along one long block of North Market Street. One for jewelry, art and curios; one for tools, fishing and golf, the pawn shop and the new store with a wide selection of stuff, from guitars and surfboards to DVDs and Hawaiian artifacts.

The Pioneer-Press story also gives a good explanation of the difficulties pawn shops face from local governing authorities who have decided — but misguided — ideas of what pawn shops are.

“Six or seven years ago, they came to the city of Inver Grove Heights and we said no,” Mayor George Tourville said. “We took a look at the issues around how they operate, and the stigma of stolen goods going right straight to the pawn shop, and we didn’t have the votes to get them into the city of Inver Grove Heights.”


It took a while, but eventually the hicks in Inver Grove Heights got a clue:

Police were reassured by safeguards like the Automated Pawn System, which provides law enforcement with daily computerized reports on everything the pawn shop acquires — along with photo identification of each seller. That makes it much more secure than online resale activity, where it’s easier to stay anonymous.

Only then did Inver Grove Heights discuss rewriting its pawn ordinance and changing the zoning for Pawn America.

“It was not a slam dunk,” Tourville said. But with those safeguards and the company’s strong reputation, “it allowed the city council to say, ‘Hey, this is a good thing for our community,’ ” he added. “They built a good space, they’ve got people working. That space was empty and it was filled.”

As this blog has noted many times, a pawn shop is a really stupid place for a fence to offer stolen goods. He has to leave his name, address, driver’s license (or other ID) and a thumbprint, plus be filmed by surveillance cameras.