The Queen of Pawn

When Rachael Goldman was a child, her family’s pawnshop was a playpen. It was where she and sister Andrea played dress-up with fine jewelry, where she learned to play a few notes on a purple sparkle Danelectro guitar, and where she borrowed a diamond necklace for her winter formal in high school. “That’s a beautiful necklace, Rachael,” a teacher told her. “It’s available,” she responded, “and I can get you a great deal.”

Now, the 24-year-old Goldman has become the latest pawnbroker at Goldman’s Pawnshop, a fifth generation family business Downtown, and she is the first woman to carry on the Goldman legacy. The Goldman most familiar to customers is Bob Goldman, whose great grandfather opened the shop in 1898. Through the years, it has become a sanctuary for new and used musical instruments, gold and platinum jewelry, firearms, power tools, electronics, and cash for collateral.

The latter is often the most closely associated with pawnshops. Isn’t the stereotypical customer of these retail shops a down-and-out patron in desperate need of cash? And with national headlines routinely rotating subject matter such as unemployment, bankrupt countries, and unpredictable stock markets, hasn’t the pawn business been booming lately?

Not so, Goldman says. With a recession that has kept national unemployment rates around 10 percent, Goldman’s has seen a drop in retail the past few years, but Goldman says the store has been riding out the economic lag fairly steady. The customers, too, remain reliable. According to the National Pawnbroker Association, more than 80 percent of pawn customers return for their collateral on loans. Goldman says that figure holds true for her store as well. “We have been in business for over 100 years,” Goldman says. “Eventually you build up your inventory.”

Those items keep Goldman’s days rather routine — loans made, loans redeemed, payments of interest made, and goods exchanged. Yet, “it isn’t your typical desk job or any kind of job,” she says. “It’s a mix of so many different people and fields of knowledge.” The examples: the working mother of two who needs a short-term loan after an unexpected dentist bill, the couple celebrating a 10-year anniversary with a diamond upgrade, or the middle school student stopping in after school to pick out his first guitar.

And if she’s lucky, Goldman’s day might be interrupted by a floorshow. Marvin Daniels, a Goldman’s pawnbroker since 1971, is in a band, and he has a long list of musical friends. If local musicians have nothing to do during the day, they come in, pick up instruments, and jam. “What’s fun about Goldman’s,” says Goldman, “is that the floorshow is always free.”

That fun still makes Goldman feel like the pawnshop is her playpen. She gets long-winded when listing her favorite items — the vintage maple guitar or the stick pen owned by a Rockefeller. She already has chosen the diamond she wants to fit her left ring finger one day. “History is very important to me,” she says, “but when it comes to the items we have here, I have always been more focused on how great it is here and now.”

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