Pawn of a new age

Is it odd that my friends from Cincinnati know more about the local pawn shops in my city than I do? Is it odd they even go to pawn shops at all? I wouldn’t normally peg them as typical pawn shop clientele. Maybe that shows you how much I know about know about these businesses. The last time they came to visit, I thought I might just tag along with them after we had lunch at Sweet Potatoes. They wanted to noodle around the shops downtown and I knew a pawn shop would certainly be on their list.

They assured me it was safe and I should get over any notions of “seedy” or “shady.” But aren’t these places where criminals can fence their stolen goods, Ipawn_barb worried? They pointed out that pawn shops have to submit a daily list of merchandise and serial numbers to the police and hold the merch in the back while the police check the serial numbers against theft reports. A pawn shop not doing this runs the risk of being charged for receiving stolen goods. It’s hardly in their interests to be a fence. (In fact I then recalled some years back when I was happily notified by the WSPD that my stolen laptop had been recovered thanks to a pawn shop report.)

Pawn shops actually provide a useful service for cash-strapped folks who don’t have the credit to get badly needed money otherwise. They can hock a possession–using it as collateral and borrowing against it. North Carolina caps the pawn shop lending rate at 2 percent a month. Sure that’s 24 percent annually but that’s about the same as some credit cards.

After the recession in 2008, cash-strapped folks were becoming more common–even in the wealthier demographics. Pawn shops were getting inventories of more expensive and higher quality items. So, shoppers and bargain hunters are letting go of their traditional images of the disregarded pawn shops. And I knew my friends had an eye for fine quality.

Just look for ones that are family owned and operated and you’ll be fine they told me. With that criteria, it was no surprize that Camel Pawn Shop on Liberty Streetcamel_pawn was a happy find for them. Ron, the affable grandson of Ben and Rose Clein who opened the store in 1931, welcomed me as I listened to my friends chat and deal over attractive jewelry. The iconic store is a member of the Downtown Winston Salem Partnership and A+ members of the BBB.

Sometimes it pays to let the out-of-towners guide you around your own town!