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'Completely unexpected': Pawn shops seeing surprising results during stay-at-home order

More than a month into Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order and, at least, more than a month left while unemployment rates skyrocket, pawn shops would seem to be in a position for success.

But some pawn shops across northern Illinois are struggling to even stay open – if they were even open at all – and others have actually sold more items than they’ve purchased.

Eddie Gomez, owner of Big Al’s Trading in Crystal Lake, said if he wasn’t able to liquidate some of his inventory online, he may have had to close already.

“People are just afraid to go out,” said Gomez, who said he’s keeping his shop open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until noon. “We only had one customer (on Friday). He sold us a computer. So there’s no business. I’m just dumping stuff on eBay so we can survive.”

Gomez said the strip mall in which Big Al’s is located has been pretty much empty since the stay-at-home-order.

Some pawn shops have had better luck. Business is still slow for owner Greg Holloway at Bridge Pawn in DeKalb, but he said he’s selling more than he expected – especially jewelry, tablets and video game systems.

“It is good that things that are selling however I’m baffled,” Holloway said. “I don’t understand how or why but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’ll take the sales but I kind of hoped we’d be busier. … It’s just been pretty quiet in general.”

Luke Drewel, manager of Valley Coin-Jewelry-Pawn in Spring Valley, said he’s seen the same thing – slightly slower business than usual, more going out than coming in, and a spike in tablets and video games. He also said that with silver prices down, people have been buying as much of it as they can.

Drewel said for those still employed, they’re not spending a lot of money on things besides food and rent, and that could lead to more entertainment purchases.

“I think people have money to spend but they’re just not spending it right now,” Drewel said. “With the state closed down another month it might seem like people may be getting loans. But that might not be enough.”

Crest Hill Pawn And Jewelry in Crest Hill just opened on Wednesday, with plans to be open four days a week. Owner Thom Slamecka said with low unemployment the past few years, the business has slowed.

But he said he expects things to pick up a little, which is why he re-opened.

“I expect to start seeing as we’re open, people coming in and needing money for even things like groceries or other small bills,” Slamecka said. “That’s always been the niche we’ve had. I’m not sure about what the numbers are here in Joliet, but with more people unemployed overall it just seems people will need to borrow money and we’re here, willing and available to work with them should they need that.”

Although the stay-at-home order has been extended through May 30, some more businesses are being allowed to open with safety guidelines in place. Gomez said that might help get people out of the house more.

Given how unpredictable everything has been so far, however, Holloway said he really has no idea what the next month is going to look like.

“I have no idea what to expect just because what I expected, just blew my expectations. I don’t understand why,” Holloway said. “We’re ready to give loans and purchase items, but there’s just so much more going out than coming in. It’s completely unpredictable, completely unexpected.”

Like Gomez, Slamecka has a very simple goal for the near future.

“Like a lot of people I’m unsure how it’s going to go,” Slamecka said. “I’m just hoping to keep the lights on.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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