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We will buy it for top price.

Don’t have any gold? This is the time of year when Maui produces its own gold.

Maui’s gold


Real-life drama in Wailuku

While we were busy getting ready for, shooting and then following up on the Kamaaina Loan reality TV show, a different real-life drama was working itself out around the corner:

Pawn 101: Borrowing local vs. national

In a previous post, we talked about a Kamaaina Loan customer who needed — and got — cash just overnight.

The only way to do this is to deal with a local pawnbroker.

There are Internet pawnbrokers, but it takes a little while to get a loan with them. If you need cash within hours (or on the weekend), then local is your only option. (We are talking here about people who don’t have money to get out of ATMs and suchlike.)

There is a question whether Internet pawnbroking is legal.

Pawnbroking has always been regulated, and in the early days of the United States, regulation was done by cities. The first pawn regulations were passed in New York City about 200 years ago.

As the country grew, and pawnshops grew along with them, in both extent and numbers, the states took over regulation (although cities can impose additional regulation on top of state rules).

Although pawnshops are subject to some national laws (like anti-moneylaundering laws), the Congress has never specifically passed pawn regulations. Unlike banks, which have a choice of seeking a federal or a state charter, pawnshops are all state-controlled.

Or were, until the rise of Internet pawnbroking. There does not appear to be any way an Internet pawnbroker can be in compliance with state regulations. For example, most states prevent taking a pawn pledge out of their jurisdictions during the mandatory hold period. But the essence of an Internet pawn is that you send your gold to an address somewhere else.

It might be that the pawn does not begin until the item arrives at the Internet pawn office, wherever that is, but this theory has not yet been tested in courts.

Something to think about next time you are planning to place your valuable property temporarily in the hands of a pawnbroker.





The cameras are rolling!

Amber and Carl

Pawn Stories camera crew Amber Smith and Carl Johnson ready to work

As of 8 this morning, the Pawn Stories crew was at work, filming behind-the-scenes at the pawnshop.

When Kamaaina Loan opened its doors at 9, there was not a line of people carrying stuffed monkeys, but there was a short line of regular customers coming in to make and pay off loans.  We’re hoping the cinematic element grows as the day wears on.

Pawn Stories cameraman Carl Johnson and his sidekick and second camerawoman Amber Smith were impessed by the Iao Valley rainforest, which they hope to hike before they leave the island.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Carl.

Carl and Amber have been filming pawn operations for Pawn Stories for years now, and they’ve never seen anything like Kamaaina Loan. But, as Carl noted, every pawn business is different.


Real reality bites

Know what this is and how much it's worth?

A ribbon issued to welcome US Navy sailors to Honolulu during the war with Spain.

The excitement is building, but a little nervousness, too, as we prep Kamaaina Loan for filming the Pawn Stories reality TV show Thursday. As we said earlier, this is real reality, no script.

Now that we’re about to go on camera, the idea of a script begins to show its advantages.

 With a script, you not only know for sure you’ll be getting something, but you know what it will be. You can cheat a little and do some research beforehand. Come Thursday, we’ll be working the flying trapeze without a net: If you bring in a whatzis that we’ve never seen before, we might be stumped. Or not. There are a lot of reference books upstairs, and with a combined cenjury or so of experience, there are not that many things that have never come over the counter before.

It doesn’t have to be bizarre, though.

What's this Hawaiiana item and what is it worth?

Hawaiiana item

Hawaiiana items are sure to be a hit with the Mainlanders. Come on by, starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. again Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.

(What’s the weirdest thing anyone ever brought in? Hard to say, but the Egyptian sarcophagus has to be a contender. It took a while, but we found a buyer for it.)




Secrets of reality TV

Secrets of reality TV


Most reality TV shows are staged. You knew that, right? I mean, all those coincidences in “The Amazing Race” didn’t just happen.


There’s an exception, though, and it’s right here. Only we need you to make it happen, fo’ real.


On Thursday and Friday (and maybe Saturday, too), Pawn Stories will be filming at Kamaaina Loan. No script, no fakery.


What we are trying to do, however, is to compress the interesting things that really do happen in the pawnshop over a month, or six months into two days – in the interest of efficiency with the production crews.


Thus, we want you to bring your most curious item in and let us give you a reading. Did tutu tell you the diamond in her wedding ring was “perfect”? You always wondered if it really was. Find out.


In reality, Kamaaina Loan does get a lot of curious stuff. Not every day. Jimi likes to talk about atmospheric clocks, “the closest thing to perpetual energy.”


We really do get atmospheric clocks in. We have one on pawn right now, and we purchased another about three years ago.


They’re real but rare.


So what we’d like you to do for us is help us concentrate all that reality into two days. Should be fun.


We’re open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and the early bird will get the worms.


Call 242-5555 if you have questions.


And, yes, if you have regular business and don’t want to be filmed, we’re setting up a no-camera area.

A cautionary tale for the star-struck

Business Week has a story about a movie mecca you’ve never heard of, Allen Park, Michigan. This should be required reading for Maui citizens and mayors and council members, since we also have been tabbed as a suburb of Tinsel Town.

The Allen Park experiment was significantly different from the proposals floated on Maui, since it was to be a trade school, not a production center. Nevertheless, the framework of the agreement is something for us to be sure to avoid, especially the hold-harmless agreement. (I am surprised by this agreement, since usually it’s governments that impose hold-harmless agreements on businesses, not the other way around.

Still, required reading. Here’s the start:

Jimmy Lifton was supposed to be Allen Park’s savior. He arrived in the Detroit bedroom community midway through 2009, shortly after General Motors (GM) and Chrysler declared bankruptcy. The metro area’s jobless rate was 15.9 percent, and officials were desperate to get residents back to work. Lifton, a Detroit native and president of Oracle Post, an audio and video post-production company in Burbank, Calif., had just the idea: He wanted to turn Allen Park into a movie-making hub.

The overture wasn’t as random as it may seem. Michigan had a nascent film industry thanks to a generous tax credit offered at the time; the state had lured Clint Eastwood to film Gran Torino and George Clooney to direct The Ides of March.

In August 2009, Allen Park’s city council unanimously voted to sell $31 million in bonds to buy and improve 104 acres so Lifton could develop a $146 million studio as a tenant of the city. At the event announcing the partnership, then-Mayor Gary Burtka declared Allen Park “Hollywood 48101” (a reference to the city’s Zip Code), and Lifton spoke of cranking out movies the way Henry Ford mass-produced cars. Lifton promised 3,000 jobs, which would have made the venture, known as Unity Studios, the biggest employer in town. “We will be here 25 and 50 and 100 years from now,” Lifton said.

That script didn’t pan out. Lifton has vacated the property and returned to California, leaving Allen Park with a bad case of buyer’s remorse. “We were buffaloed,” says Tony Lalli, a former councilman who voted for the bond sale. “Everyone said they wanted it, and we went along.”


Local boy makes good

Don Nelson is going into the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame.

OK, so Nellie isn’t a born-and-raised, but more than almost any other celebrity retiree to Maui, he’s taken an open and obvious part in community life, particularly business. So let’s declare him a local boy by adoption and congratulate him.

Join us and be on reality TV

All our customers, old and new, and friends are invited to take part in filming of a “sizzle” episode of a reality TV series based on pawnbrokers (wonder where that idea came from?).

A Mainland production crew will be on North Market Street Thursday and Friday, Sept. 6 & 7. And, if the action warrants it, on Saturday, Sept. 8, too.

So bring your most interesting, unique and outrageous items down and let one of our professionals review it for a pawn or a sale.

This show is completely unscripted. The producer tells us, what he sees, he tapes.

There will be video releases, so if you don’t want to be famous, we won’t force it on you. But we are anticipating a fun two days, and maybe many more if the show goes into series production.

Show your Maui spirit and be a star!

Or, if you are a regular customer, just come down and be regular. Kamaaina Loan will be in normal operation during the taping.

$35,000 parking spaces

Least surprising local news of the week is that the county will not proceed with making the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot a multi-story garage, at a cost of $35,000 per stall gained.
That’s right. The parking spot would cost more than the car parked in it.
This is usual. When I worked in Des Moines, Iowa, the city built a series of multistory parking garages downtown, and each stall cost roughly twice what a new car cost in those days. The garages charged 35 cents an hour to park, and, remarkably, that was sufficient revenue to pay off the bonds. (In Des Moines, they used something called “tax increment financing,” which was a form of betting on the come – the bonds were supported by the expected increase in property taxes that was to come about when the garage made surrounding property more valuable; the parking lot equivalent of trickle-down economics. It worked, in the sense that the bonds did not default. It did not work, in the sense that the city was trying to revitalize downtown. People did not decide to forgo free parking at the suburban malls in order to pay 35 cents to park downtown.)
Should a Wailuku multistory garage get built, and should it be required to be self-supporting, presumably it would have to charge in the neighborhood of 75 cents an hour. Since the municipal lot is used largely by workers who park without charge, I do not see them welcoming the opportunity to pay $6 a day to park.
It shouldn’t have required an environmental impact statement to figure this out.
There’s a reason multistory garages are uncommon. They are ridiculously expensive. Only resorts, whose land is even more ridiculously expensive, have them; and Queen Kaahumanu Center.
At Kaahumanu Center, the owners (at the time, ML&P) wanted to retain their standing as the primo mall on the island, because of a rule of thumb in the mall business that the No. 1 mall enjoys an 8% premium in revenue over lesser malls. Unable to grow out, Kaahumanu Center had to go up, making itself two stories and adding two very expensive parking garages.
As it turned out, it didn’t work, for several reasons. One, Duncan McNaughton built a loooong strip mall along Dairy Road and placed in it a lot of stores that normally you’d find in the local dominant mall, like Sports Authority. Two, because Maui is a tourist island, Shops at Wailea and Whalers Village scarfed up the high-end retailers like Coach that normally you’d find at the local primo mall.
But Shops at Wailea did not become the local primo mall because it doesn’t have the stores that draw people to the dominant mall for their day-to-day shopping – no Macy’s or equivalent.
As often happens, Mainland rules don’t apply here.
Wailuku is certainly congested, but it is not obviously a place to put expensive parking: In general, it has the lowest commercial rents around.
So parking is likely to remain a pain in Wailuku. The only old city I have been in where no-charge parking downtown is not a pain is Savannah, Georgia. It was founded as a military colony and the original layout set aside every sixth block or so for militia training grounds.
Remarkably, these were not poached for development even after militia uses receded. As a result, there are miles of empty block fronts where cars can park a short distance from the built-up blocks where people want to go. It’s awfully expensive in land, but it works.
Lucky for Kamaaina Loan & Cash for Gold, we have our own private parking (it’s behind our retail store at 98 North Market Street).