The Pawn Brokers

Presumably murky characters who fence goods at high interest rates for people in need, pawnshop owners are riding the region's recent wave of misfortune with a measure of respect.


Published:

(page 1 of 6)

Ilene Blaz of the Legacy Jewelry store in downtown Birmingham — with its fine carpets, crystal chandeliers, and glass cases brimming with gemstones — says her business “used to be more fun when everybody left here with a gift.” Then, two years ago, as General Motors and Chrysler received emergency bailouts and the economy spiraled downward, Blaz, who runs the store with her son, Neal, did something that was never part of her original business plan. She hired someone to teach her to be a pawnbroker, renovated her store to include a private meeting room for transactions, and added “& Loan” to the name of her company.

So far, the changes are working and adding to the bottom line, says Blaz, who became a licensed pawnbroker after a number of customers requested loans on jewelry they’d bought at her store. These days, she says pawning accounts for 60 percent of her business.

The modification has expanded her client base and her profits. “I consider us a full-service jewelry store because we do everything,” she says. “We buy gold. We buy diamonds. We’ll do whatever we can to get you through this period, which is difficult for everybody.”

Blaz isn’t alone. Pawnshops, once considered less-than-reputable businesses that catered mostly to those down on their luck and in need of quick cash, charged high interest rates, and were often located in less-desirable locations, are now regarded as acceptable places for middle-class and upper-class folks to seek one-time small loans — and business is booming.

“It’s crazy how the image of the pawnshop has changed completely,” Mike Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy, says. “At one time, it would be appropriate to say, pawnshops were the doormats of the business world.

“I’m not sure they are the kings now,” Bernacchi continues, “but the transformation has been substantial. There is no doubt in my mind that if the economy had not jumped off the face of the earth, pawnshops would not have this new status.”

Part of the reason for the new acceptability is that diverse clientele are discovering pawnshops. Once mainstays of urban cores, these businesses are branching out to the suburbs, and setting up shops in strip malls and shopping centers.

“Pawnshop owners have done a lot to clean up their image,” says Emmett Murphy, spokesperson for the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA). “And with the success of reality TV shows Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn, more people have become interested. Pawnshops are a financial service and are becoming more of a mainstream financial service.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

2016 Auto Dealership Consumer Guide

Hockey Haven

The new $650 million Red Wings arena and entertainment district vows to dazzle Detroit.

Focus: Remote Payment

For DTE Energy, drug stores have become a fertile ground for customers who traditionally stood in long lines at their payment centers.

Top of Their Game

Now, for the second year, DBusiness honors six young lawyers as nominated by our readers and their peers.

Weight Loss

A new $148-million national research institute to open in Detroit could generate 10,000 high-tech jobs over the next five years.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Muer’s Table + Bar Coming to Partridge Creek in Clinton Township This Spring
    Muer’s Table + Bar, a restaurant following in the heritage of the Muer family, will open for...
  2. Ford Building in Downtown Detroit Acquired by The Sterling Group, Improvements Planned
    The Sterling Group, a multi-faceted real estate company, has closed on the acquisition of the...
  3. Detroit’s Condominium Market Projected to Reach $100M in Sales This Year, New Projects on Horizon
    Detroit’s condominium market is projected to reach $100 million in new and existing sales this...
  4. Ferndale’s GreenSpace Café to Host First Vegan and Vegetarian Speed Dating Event in Michigan
    Ferndale-based GreenSpace Café, a plant-based vegetarian and vegan restaurant owned by Dr. Joel...
  5. Entrepreneur-YOU Conference Set for March 15 at Walsh College in Troy
    Registration is now open for the sixth annual Southeast Michigan Women’s Entrepreneur-YOU...
  6. New Wayne State University Integrative Biosciences Center in Midtown Announces Inaugural Health Care Symposium
    The Wayne State University College of Engineering in Detroit has announced it will host its...