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March 08, 1991 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-03-08

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Assistant Editor

es Gold was 7-
years-old when he
made his first sale.
He was working
in his father's De-
troit pawnshop where the
motto was "Sell! Sell! Sell!"
Les' job was sweeping floors.
One day while sweeping
up, Les watched as a man
got out of a cab and walked
through the front door of the
shop. He took off his shoes.
Les offered him $5.
The man took the money
and returned to the cab. He
paid the driver $3. The re-
maining $2 he stuffed in his
pocket. Shoeless, he began
walking home in the snow.
Today, Les Gold is owner
of American Jewelry and
Loan, which bears little
resemblance to the old
pawnshops. Gone are the
stacks of rumpled clothes
and shoes with holes on the
bottom. Instead, shelves at
American Jewelry and Loan
are filled with everything
from VCRs to mink coats to
stereo equipment.
It's part of the new look to
pawnshops — "Upbeat,
upscale, classy merchandise
at a reasonable price," Mr.
Gold says.
Lew Silver agrees. Owner
of Lew Silver Diamond


No more old shoes and tattered
coats. Pawnbrokers today deal
in a sophisticated inventory of
everything from jewels to furs to
popcorn machines.

Above, Lew Silver: "The only
difference between a new and
used diamond is the price."



Brokers, Mr. Silver deals
only in solid gold and
precious gems. He eschews
any comparison between his
store and old-time
pawnshops, preferring to de-
scribe Diamond Brokers as
similar to any top jewelry
store, but without the
quadruple-digit price tags.
His motto: "The only dif-
ference between a new and
used diamond is the price."
Pawnshop owners work
in two ways: straight sales
or 3 percent a month loans.
Most customers loan items

"I love my
business. Some
people think it's
sleazy, but it's not.
I help out
thousands and
thousands of
people every year.
We're the poor
man's banker."

Lew Silver

to the dealers, who, like
bankers, make money on in-
A loan customer, usually
in desperate need of money,
provides the shop with an
item for quick cash.
Customers generally
receive about 25 percent of
the value of an item. They
then have about six months
to redeem it. If the customer
defaults on the loan, the

item becomes the property of
the pawnbroker, who sells it
at a price at least 50 percent
lower than retail.
It doesn't matter what the
item is. If it will sell, Les
Gold will take it.
He's had live monkeys,
cotton candy-making
machines, jewelry with Heb-
rew inscriptions, disk jockey
equipment, saddles, medical
microscopes, chain saws,
inflatable boats and drum
But not plants. "Plants I
don't take," he says.
Once, a customer brought
in a ceramic figure. Mr. Gold
bought it. A salesman told
him, "Les, it's ugly. You're
never going to sell it."
Several days later it was
"There's a customer for
everything," Mr. Gold says.
After making his first sale
at 7, Les Gold was 12 when
he started selling golf clubs
from the basement of his
Oak Park home. He worked
Saturday nights and Sun-
Business was a success un-
til the IRS arrived. Les had
failed to charge his
customers sales tax. The IRS
representatives gave him a
choice: close shop or start
charging tax. Les closed the
Two years later, he was
selling ceramic tables he
made at school to Arlans, a
now defunct department
store. Then he expanded to
handmade chain belts and
vests, which he sold to major
department stores
throughout Detroit. By
1970, he was working full-
time at his father's
pawnshop, which Les'
grandfather had started.
Mr. Gold planned to
become a physician because
"I always loved dissecting."
But then he began studies in
medicine and discovered "I
had a problem with chem-
istry." Besides, the
pawnshop business was in
his blood.
"I've always loved hustl-
ing," he says.
After working for years
with his father, Mr. Gold in
1978 opened his own
pawnshop. Last year, he
moved the store to its cur-
rent location at the Green-8
Shopping Center in Oak
Park. Designed by Mr. Gold,
the shop is 13,000 square
What customers see is a
spacious room of display
cases filled with jewelry,
mink coats and guns on the
left, musical instruments on
the right, VCRs and
technical equipment on
shelves at the back. What
they don't see are the
thousands of VCRs and tele-
visions and Nintendo games
stored in the back of the

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