As the epidemic continues, a source of money for those on the fringes of the economy remains open
As financial institutions, Oregon’s pawn shops have also changed their business models to stay open. This means that more money goes out of their business than it goes in.
Flynn Case, owner of All That Glitters Jewelry & Loans. (Amanda Loman / journalist Salem)
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When people without a credit card need money to fix a car or for drugs, diapers or groceries, some go to the Flynn Case store.
Case owns the pawnshop All That Glitters Jewelry & Loans at 1191 Lancaster Dr. NE For more than three decades as a pawnshop, Case has bought and sold televisions, Playstations, guitars and other value.
While many retailers have closed following the COVID-19 outbreak, pawn shops like Case are open and there are about a dozen in Marion and Polk counties. He said that while most people have jobs or have an ATM card, a large segment struggles to get credit.
“You have 10% of the population that is not creditworthy,” he said. “We are their financial institution.
Now, a state ordinance that requires companies to implement social distancing measures has shaken up the way Case does business. He decided to stay open.
“It would save me money to be closed,” he said. “But I’m over 30 years old taking care of my clients, right? And without my clients, we are bankrupt.
Customers now enter from the back where an employee in blue medical gloves lets in only a few at a time. A jewelry box is now empty, items are safely stored for the time being as Case has suspended sales. Above the jewelry case is a bottle of hand sanitizer.
He said he had decided to stop the sale of televisions, guitars, swords and other items that line the walls, sold by their owners or returned by people who did not collect them. Case did this to limit the number of people inside.
But he said his business still lends and will buy items from customers. As he spoke, a man pushed a plastic air purifier up to the counter.
“We’ve chosen at this point to shut down (sales) and make sure our customers can get that short-term cash to pick up their prescriptions and get their food from the grocery store or diapers or whatever,” a- he declared. .
While other states have enacted broader business closures, Oregon has only closed specific businesses that require close contact, such as hairdressers or massage therapists. Other businesses are allowed to remain open if they can limit personal contact.
In Oregon, pawn shops are regulated by the state’s Financial Regulation Division, which is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services. Beth Anundi, president of the Oregon Pawnbrokers Association, said pawn shops are providing financial service to people who do not have bank accounts and are even more essential during the outbreak.
She said many pawn shops have reduced their activities to lending and purchasing items from customers. They also limited the number of people allowed inside stores and cut staff, she said.
When Gov. Kate Brown was considering making it mandatory to shut down businesses to stop the spread of the virus, she said her association was in contact with the governor’s office to make sure pawn shops could stay open.
Anundi, co-owner of Capital Pawn & Couture in Salem, said his clients are grateful.
Case said he had customers who came in six or eight times a year to pledge the same item to make ends meet. He said he had clients who only get paid once a month and apply for a loan to do so until payday. Although he got some unusual items like a prototype heart stimulation monitor or 200-year-old guns, most people bring in items like Xboxes, sets of drills, and lots of jewelry.
He said 80% of his business is loans and the average loan is $ 200. He charges 3% per month on each loan. He runs his business on volume, typically holding 10,000 items as collateral.
Normally it has 10 employees, but workers with health issues can stay at home, Case said. Although the outbreak has created cash flow problems for the store, he remains optimistic.
Case said his company has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the federal relief program that gives employers forgivable loans to keep employees on the payroll. The package also expanded unemployment benefits and people also receive tax refunds. With more people with cash in their pockets, he expects customers to return to redeem their valuables.
“I hope when all of this happens we will see a recovery in business,” he said.
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