The Glendale Pawn Shop, a Brand Boulevard store specializing in relatively inexpensive jewelry and easily acquired loans, has experienced a recent surge in business as the economy sinks south on continued fiscal concerns.
Like other businesses, its profit margin is tied to the economy. But unlike most stores â€” where spending usually increases in healthy fiscal periods â€” business at the pawn shop is only as good as the economy is bad.
â€œIt's a very cyclical thing,â€ manager Meredith Rosenberg said.
â€œWhen the economy is down people come in.â€
Since its opening, the pawn shop at 331 N. Brand Blvd. has seen multiple owners, including its current proprietors â€” the Rosenbergs, who took over the shop in 2006.
With a housing crisis and credit crunch freezing lending, business at the pawn shop has more than doubled since last year as shoppers look for cheap goods and cash-strapped residents seek loans in a constricted market.
â€œBusiness is very good,â€ Rosenberg said.
â€œUnfortunately, when the economy isn't doing well, people look to us.â€
Those people have included what some may consider traditional pawn shop customers: economically disadvantaged residents hoping to secure a quick loan before the holiday season, she said.
But the difference between now and a year ago, Rosenberg said, is that more well off customers are utilizing the pawn shop's services to either secure loans or shop for jewelry that is comparatively cheaper.
Earrings and rings that sit beneath long glass cases range in price from $15 to $4,000 â€” cheaper than similar goods at high priced jewelers, while a collection of musical items â€” a keyboard and a slew of guitars â€” flew off the shelf recently, she said.
While profits culled from the sale of goods have provided a healthy economic benefit to the shop, the pawn business has been the backbone of the store's wealth.
Lending and pawning items make up 90% of the company's business as bank lending becomes more tepid, Rosenberg said.
â€œRight now a lot of people are in destitute times,â€ she said.
â€œWe're seeing a lot of people that come in who don't have the best credit or access to credit cards. People of all walks of life. And we're making the most of it.â€
But that hasn't stopped some angry customers entering the shop who decry the lending practices for loans with interest rates as high as 20%, she said.
Rosenberg dismisses the contention that she is taking advantage of economically disadvantaged customers, saying that her business is stepping in where banks have somewhat stepped out.
A global freeze on credit has reduced lending between banks â€” and lending to customers as a consequence â€” even after officials with the U.S. Treasury Department said last week they will use $250 billion of the $700 billion bailout package to aid banks.
â€œI'm not trying to take advantage of people,â€ Rosenberg said. â€œWe're giving people an opportunity and I'm glad I can help them.â€
That contention was backed up Friday by one shopper as he milled around the store.
Michael Casillas said he had a â€œpretty favorableâ€ opinion about what the business of the pawn shop as peered at the collection of silver and gold jewelry.
â€œI like what they do,â€ he said.
Business on Friday was slow, but shop officials said they see as many as 50 customers per day â€” of all economic brackets â€” and expect that number to hold steady as the holiday shopping season looms.
â€œMoney doesn't define a particular group,â€ she said. â€œPeople come here out of necessity.â€