Tampa pawnbrokers do more business amid inflation, gas prices

It’s 2 p.m. on a Thursday at the A-Universal Pawn store in Egypt Lake-Leto.

The pop music of the 80s is slowly on the radio. Signed photos of Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner hang on the wall by the door. And guitars hover above glass jewelry cabinets.

Store owner Rick Evans talks to a regular customer about how to turn an earring into a belly ring for her.

Once the crowds pass, his pawnshop is empty for about an hour.

Evans and his mother sit in matching gray armchairs and drink coffee, as they do every Thursday together, to catch their breath before the next wave of customers.

Evans said he’s seen a lot of new faces in his shop lately and heard a lot about making ends meet.

“Everyone is talking about the price going up,” Evans said. “They’re talking about, you know, deciding whether or not they can keep their jobs because the price of gas has doubled and they can’t afford to go to work. And, unfortunately, these people are suffering .

But pawnshops across the country are not. They’re doing the kind of business they haven’t seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

Michael Goldstein is the treasurer of the National Pawn Association and owner of an eight-store pawnshop chain in Boston.

He loves numbers and says that while inflation is the highest in 40 years, gas prices are hurting his customers the most.

“Economic ebbs and flows in the stock market don’t affect my clients,” he said. “My client is the guy who holds the door to the Ritz, he’s not the guy who walks into the Ritz. So he’s not as invested in the stock market as most middle- and upper-class people.

Goldstein said the main difference he noticed this time around compared to 2008 is that he didn’t see middle-class business owners rushing to pawn their items for cash.

But back in Tampa, that’s not the case.

Joe Cacciatore has owned Capital Pawn for 25 years. This year, he said he saw more gold and silver jewelry entering his shop than ever before.

“It’s amazing,” Cacciatore said. “The people who came are not just poor people, but they are rich people who are probably living beyond their means. And they are bringing inheritances from their families. And more and more people are struggling to pay their bills.

Daylina Miller


WUSF Public Media

Capital Pawn owner Joe Cacciatore said he values ​​the loans between $100 and $20,000. But he also has items in his shop that he considers “priceless”.

Cacciatore said he tries to help people when he can.

“I really thought the audience would eventually run out of gold and silver. But my Lord,” he said. “And they throw them on my desk, and I’m like, ‘So what do you want to do? We have to sell. I say, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to pawn them and leave them to your [family]?’ It’s not enough. And so, I give them the money.”

At A-Universal, Juan Garcia walks into Evans’ store. The fiber optic cable installer carries an electric drill and an armful of tools.

“A client gave me this while I was working at his place,” he told Evans.

Garcia, like many Evans customers, is just trying to fill his gas tank.

“My boss, he gives me money for gas once in a while when I need it. So I just try to make it myself so I don’t have to get it from him,” Garcia said.

Evans doesn’t buy many tools, but jewelry is the bread and butter of his store. He said that due to the volatility of the past few years, pieces he sold during the height of the pandemic were coming back to his shop.

“When the pandemic came and they sent out the stimulus checks, people came and bought gold,” Evans said. “A lot of people have come in, they’ve bought gold, they’ve bought diamonds, they’ve bought things that they didn’t have before. And, so, what we’re seeing is that some of those things come back to us, and so it’s an equal exchange and so it works.

Evans tells Garcia to go to another pawn shop that buys tools, where they might get a better deal, giving Garcia the money he needs.

“You have to pay for gas, you know. If it’s $10 a gallon, you still have to pay. Or you walk. Or ride a bike. You have to deal with it,” he said. “But other than that, it’s fine. It’s part of life, man.

But Evans quickly arrives and tells Garcia he’ll give him $40 if he can’t find anyone else to take the tools.

Tools in hand, Garcia drives away in his van, burning gasoline while searching for cash to keep his tank full.

About Glenda Wait

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