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.





And they say there’s no ham in hamburgers

News reports say horse DNA was discovered in beef hamburgers sold in Ireland and England. Up to one-third in one sample, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This reminds us of an old joke.

During the Depression, a restaurant was famous for its rabbit stew. Then came World War II and meat rationing.

A loyal customer continued to order the stew but he became suspicious. At length, he asked the chef if there wasn’t some change in the recipe. The chef said:

“I wouldn’t admit this to anyone else, but you’ve been my most loyal customer, so I’ll tell you. Yes, it’s true. Because of the rationing, we had to mix in horse meat with the rabbit.”

But, he hurried to add, “But only 50-50. One horse to one rabbit!”


Mark your calender and be on TV with us

Just a reminder that Pawn Stories Inc. will be filming two (possibly three) days of reality TV at Kamaaina Loan & Cash for Gold, and YOU’RE INVITED!

Here’s how to enhance your chances: Bring something interesting — rare, valuable, odd, even kooky — and show it to our pawnbrokers. There will be two (sometimes 3) cameras rolling, taking it all in. Unlike some of the pawn shows you’ve seen, this one is NOT scripted. The producers want to see pawning in paradise, by real people acting the way they really act when the cameras are not around.

If you can talk story, all the better.

OK, here’s a backstage secret. The producer, Bob McCullough, does not script. However, sometimes, when an interaction is really good, he may ask the participants to repeat what they said, to get good audio. In real life, sound recording can be tricky.

Let’s say, though, that you have to do a pawn or sale transaction for the usual reasons — you need cash — and you don’t want it on video. No problem. Kamaaina Loan will be in regular operation, with a separate location next door where the cameras won’t be. Your choice: Be a pawn star, or don’t be a pawn star.

The film schedule is Thursday, Sept. 6, and Friday, Sept. 7, during regular business hours, which are 9 am to 6 pm. Your chances of being filmed are better earlier in the day.

Be sure to stick around for Wailuku First Friday, which is also slated to be filmed.

We will film on Saturday, Sept. 8, if necessary.

Anyone agreeing to take part will be asked to sign a standard video release. It should be fun and we look forward to seeing old friends. Even if you don’t have an item to present, bring yourself and say Howzzit!



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.

No place like Maui for lunch

The sign at Treats and Sweets in Kahului warns about the mangoes, doesn’t mention the wild chickens underfoot.

Eat dessert first. The Coconut Isle sundae is a good choice: soft serve vanilla, chocolate syrup, pecans and coconut.

If you haven’t been to Treats and Sweets, it’s just about the last place on Maui that serves french fries old local style, with ketchup and mustard.

When it opened nearly 50 years ago, as a Dairy Queen, it was mobbed by thousands of people. Fast food was new here then,

It’s a step back in time.


First Portugal, now Gold selling sweeps Italy

Gold Selling in ItalyA few days ago, we linked to a report that in Portugal, out-of-work citizens have sold almost all their gold. Now, another report says that in Italy, the people also are liquidating their gold jewelry because of hard times.

Reuters: “Times are now so tough that Valerio Novelli, a ticket inspector on Rome’s buses, is planning to sell his old gold teeth.

” ‘I can’t get to the end of the month without running up debts,’ said Novelli, 56, who has to support an ex-wife and daughter. ‘I know I won’t get much, but I need the money .’ “

The story goes on to detail warnings that you have read about on this blog already: That the rise in the price of gold has brought in untrustworthy new gold buyers (in Italy, allegedly connected with the Mafia).

Italians are traditionally collectors of gold: christening, birthday and other gifts are often gold jewelry.

When times get hard, the gold gets sold. It’s hard, but when people get to that point, just think how much assistance they’d get from a bank.

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.

Pawn 101: HIgh value pawns

At Bloomberg News, there’s a interview at Borro, a London pawn shop that brags it services the well-to-do. The owner says, “Where else can you get 50,000 pounds” on the same day?

Well, actually, you could do that at Kamaaina Loan, except we deal in dollars not pounds.

A $50,000 pawn is not that unusual. On Maui with its population of 150,000, we don’t do as many $50,000 loans as Borro might in London, with its population of over 10 million.

But a $50,000 loan is very doable, if you have the collateral. A couple of Rolexes might d — we have customers who have more than a couple of Rolexes.

We have lately opened a private transaction room to handle these big loans, and also to make it more convenient to do estate appraisals, which take some time.

But a $50,000 pawn loan? That doesn’t have to take much longer than a $50 pawn loan.

Call 242-5555 to make an appointment for your $50,000.

Don’t buy that iPhone now!

So say the tech gurus, because (unconfrmed) rumors have it that the iPhone 5 will be out in a month.

In the past, that has meant that the older models (which remain available) drop sharply in price: to $0 if you are willing to sign a 2-year contract, sometimes.

Whether the rumor is accurate or not, retailers have started dropping the price of the iPhone 4S.
For you as an iPhone carrying pawn customer, what this means is that you will not be able to borrow as much on your phone from now on.

Smartphones are a very popular pawn item. It must be hard to part with your phone, but, hey, sometimes you gotta get a bridge loan to eat or pay rent.