“I want to talk to the people I’m buying products from. I don’t want something from online that may not be exactly what I want.”
You Never Know What You'll Find at LaBosco's
Where else can you find a leaf blower parked next to softail Harley Davidson? Or an ornate 19th century statuette from France next to an iPad?
At LaBosco’s Jewelry Castle in Port Orange, Florida, a man comes in wanting to borrow against the gold grillz he wore at his last show. While some would be taken aback, the calm pawn manager Lee Carman is not. “This happens all the time,” he said, as he explains to the customer that the store would offer a loan after they properly labeled the jeweled teeth.
LaBosco’s General Manager Michael Cappiello, who runs the two pawnshops in the Daytona Beach area, says LaBosco’s buys and sells “anything of value,” which includes high-end jewelry, musical instruments, and power tools. His biggest seller is the jewelry he says, as he shows off an assortment of diamond rings and gold necklaces.
While sales bring in money, pawn shops also make income through cash loans to customers in exchange for an item of value. There is also interest on these loans that can be adjusted based on the item and a customer’s history. If the money is repaid in within an allotted time, then the customer gets their item back; otherwise the store has the option to keep the item for resale. Eighty-five percent pay back the loan.
For people without credit or other financial resources, pawn shops can help them get the money they need. The average loan is $150.
“In some cases people don’t have any other outlet to get the money they need to get through an unexpected expense, so many of us work paycheck to paycheck these days.” said Pawn Manager, Brian Cappiello. He said customers often talk to him about their problems and he “encourages them when they’re down on their luck.”
Long gone are the days when pawn shops were considered seedy places, taking advantage of desperate patrons. Today’s pawn shops, like LaBosco’s are family-owned, and look more like a brightly lit, welcoming retail store.
“The pawn shop is the new cool place to come into, the new trendy place,” said Dana Carroll, one of the friendly LaBosco’s staff. “We have tons of different stuff like electronics, antiques, jewelry, and surfboards.”
“Customer service is a huge part of our business,” Carroll said, “and hopefully that keeps people wanting to come back to us.”
Like regular customer Amorena Kinzee who is pawning a pair of diamond stud earrings.
“I came to pawn a few times to pay for my son’s wedding, which is in three months,” she explained. “My fiancé bought my wedding ring here. I have my own business, so as soon as checks come in to help me pay for expenses, I’ll buy my stuff back.”
It’s estimated that 30 million people visit the 11,000 pawn shops in the United States every year, perhaps finding some hidden treasures.
“We had a Lombardi Trophy,” said Carman. “We actually had a guitar that I sold to a man for $500.” Later Carman discovered that the guitar had been featured in Wayne’s World, and was eventually sold to the Saturday Night Live Museum.
He says worn vintage guitars are finding a new market.
“A beat up Gibson guitar can be worth thousands,” he said. “People go absolutely nuts over them just because they look like they’re worn from being out on the road. It’s so much fun to pick up an old instrument from the 1950s or 60s. You never know where a guitar’s been. It might be on a record you’ve heard on the radio.”
Carman said his business has benefited from second-hand merchandise internet sales. Although he realizes online sales are an important component of the changing market, he thinks the brick and mortar stores are here to stay.
“There’s people who go from pawn shop to pawn shop looking for a good deal. We definitely have our regulars that like to bargain with us every week.”
Like customer Ron Sullivan who haggles over the price of some rare firearms.
“I want to talk to the people I’m buying products from,” he said. I don’t want something from online that may not be exactly what I want.”