AUGUSTA, Maine — Business may be slow in many places these days with the poor economy, but things are brisk at many consignment businesses.
Pawn shops are doing well as consumers seek out deals and people in need of cash sell items from around the house, said Rick LaChapelle, owner of Augusta Pawn & Jewelry in Augusta.
LaChapelle, who also owns pawn shops in Lewiston, Brunswick and Portland, said customers are pawning items ranging from electronics and boats to television and motorcycles.
“I have false teeth down in my Lewiston shop,” he said. “People have sold us everything. Even pets. We’ve had dogs, snakes, cats and birds.”
John Weeks, who owns J.R.’s Trading & Pawn in Waterville, says people who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living are cleaning out their closets and getting rid of what they don’t need.
He’s noticed a lot of customers are bringing in big-ticket items like four-wheelers, boats, snowmobiles and firearms.
“I have people come in every week to get money to pay for gas so they can get back and forth to work,” said Weeks. “Or they’ll say they just got 100 gallons of (fuel) oil and they have to come up with the money to pay for it. I never heard of that in the past.”
Weeks, president of the Maine Pawnbrokers Association, said there are 45 pawnbrokers in the state.
At pawn shops, customers can buy or sell used merchandise or borrow money by putting up something they own as collateral. If they don’t repay the loan within a set amount of time, they forfeit their ownership to the item, allowing the pawnbroker to sell it.
Nowadays, people are taking longer to pay back their loans and often not coming back for their items, said Dave Adelman, president of the National Pawnbrokers Association.
“When these people come in, they need money. They need money to survive on,” Adelman said. “It’s a way of life for them. They have nowhere else to go to make ends meet.”