Pawn shop: Try not to mix business with pleasure


This is definitely a week when we're glad we remembered to pay the cable bill. In previous blogs, I talked about the scripted shows -- "The Closer," "Perception," "White Collar," "Covert Affairs." Now let's peek at one reality show, "Hardcore Pawn," which returns Tuesday (July 10); here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

Like most of us, Les Gold can be
tempted to buy a fancy car or a glitzy toy.

Unlike most, such temptation can roll
into his workplace at any time. That's a pitfall of owning a pawn
shop. “You have to tale the emotion out of it,” Gold said.

Or have someone else intervene. In the
season-opener of “Hardcore Pawn,” he covets a mega-truck; his son
Seth tries to pry him away.

Sometimes, emotion wins. One couple won
a 2009 re-creation of a classic Mustang in a raffle. “I knew that
was something I would want as my personal car,” Gold said.

After all, he's 61 and grew up in
Detroit in a time when Mustangs and muscle cars ruled. He's been a
fan of the city's cars and its people. “Detroiters are very tough
and very resilient,” he said.

He's also a fan of pawn shops as a
family business. “I made my first sale when I was 7.” His
daughter Ashley waited until she was 9, he said.

It's a misunderstood business, Gold
said, basically a loan shop. Most people – about 90 per cent –
merely pawn something instead of selling it; most are back in a month
to reclaim it. Michigan limits the interest rate to three-percent a
month; others states, he said, soar as high as 20 percent.

His grandfather had a Detroit pawn
shop, where Gold's mom learned the business. “My mother was a very
tough character. You have to be tough. I think that's what Ashley has
found.”

Gold opened his own shop in 1978, moved
it to its current spot in 1993 and bought a shop in nearby Pontiac in
2011. There have been surprises along the way, including:

– His kids: “I was sure Ashley
would be in the business, but I never thought Seth would.” Seth
seemed headed to medical school at the University of Michigan, then
reversed; now he's general manager.

– Ashley's life: “When she went to
the Eli Broad College of Business, I never imagined that some day
she'd be married to Eli's cousin.” Now she's Ashley Broad, related
by marriage to the philanthropist who has created art centers (UCLA
and Michigan State University) and the MSU business school.

– The TV show, which became the
biggest ratings-getter for TruTV. “Hardcore Pawn” debuted less
than two years ago (after airing a couple of pilots), but is now
starting its sixth “season” and 69th episode.

That first episode focused on some of
the oddities that reach a pawn shop – a stripper pole, a forklift,
a boat, even a horse. Such things have continued to be a key feature.

People have tried (sometimes
successfully) to sell a Hummer, a hearse, a go-kart, a party bus and
a semi-trailer truck. They've brought in magic tricks and a strait
jacket. They've had a 1947 sex manual, a stag-film collection, a “sex
swing”and a cake designed to house a stripper. Also an alligator.

“Hardcore Pawn” also highlights
moments of anger. Sometimes, that involves the staff – Rich Pyle
raged at Gold in last season's finale, but returns in the opener –
and sometimes the customers. For the latter, Gold has some massive
security guards.

“For security guys, size really does
matter,” he said. “But you'll notice that I didn't wait for them;
I was running out there myself.”

He was. When a customer verbally
attacked Ashley Broad, her dad – a tautly built grandfather – was
rushing after him. It's all part of the pawn-shop world.

– “Hardcore Pawn,” 9 p.m.
Tuesdays, TruTV

– Season-opener airs July 10; it
reruns that night at 1 a.m., then at noon Saturday and 8:30 p.m. July
17

– Frequent reruns of other episodes.
There are marathons on July 10 (8-11 p.m., midnight to 1:30 a.m.),
July 14 (8-11 p.m., midnight to 1:30 a.m.) and July 15 (4:30-9 p.m.).