Down to Business: Pawn shop a social place

February 23, 2018 – Naperville Sun – by Daina Saleh

Business: Naperville Jewelry & Loan

Address: 605 East Ogden Ave., Naperville

Phone: 630-420-7296

Owners: Greg Holloway and Tom Brunzelle

Years in business: 9

What does this business do? “We are a pawn shop. Pawn is a terminology used to describe collateral loans, so we take in items, we give a dollar amount associated with that. We reclaim principal and interest, and the person who submitted the loan reclaims their item,” said Holloway. “We were the very first in Naperville ever.”

How does the concept work? “So we are holding an item for you, we store it, it’s a 30-day increment with a 30-day grace period. And as long as you keep up on the interest, we will store it for you as long as you need that loan. Whenever you are ready to come and get it, we are the only place that I know of that will prorate the interest. After 60 days, it becomes ours. But we are very lenient on that. We don’t come right in on day 61 and take your items back.”

Naperville Jewelry & Loan
The second floor of the Naperville Jewelry & Loan is full of guitars and other instruments. “We’ve met a lot of famous musicians. Grammy winners,” co-owner Greg Holloway said. (Daina Saleh / Naperville Sun)
What was the impetus for opening this store? Tom and I have been friends for over 30 years. We’ve discussed many different business opportunities. Pawn shop was one that stuck. I am a guitar player, so I used to travel all over the state to find pawn shops, realized there was a spot missing in the market locally.”

What is the best thing about being in Naperville? “Very safe community. We don’t have bars in the window for that fact, or a gun on our hip. We don’t have to worry about being robbed all the time. And also the caliber of items that come into our shop are superior to a shop in other neighborhoods. We do pretty well on higher-end goods,” Holloway said.

What is the biggest challenge? “There is so much fun stuff going on, and we have to work,” he said laughing.

When is your busiest time of year? “Holidays are usually busiest for retail. And we are technically a retail business. And when the income checks start coming in.”

What is the most popular thing you sell? “In our pawn shop in particular, which isn’t common, we deal a lot in women’s handbags. As you can see, we have a Ferragamo sitting here. Unknown to us, we would ever be able to say that we are experts in women’s handbags … Being in Naperville, there is a market for that. So we decided we would learn anything we could about women’s handbags. And here we are dealing in Louis Vuitton and Gucci and Ferragamo.”

What is a less popular thing you would recommend? “We buy any sort of jewelry. Broken, usable, non- usable, leftovers like all the stuff from your ex-boyfriend years past. And also any musical instruments. And we deal a lot in antiques. Many pawn shops don’t deal in antiques. They prefer i-Pods and we prefer typewriters.”

What item did you stock that you thought would do OK but surprised you by how quickly it sold? “People come in for functional decorative items.”

What is the thing you most like to do as part of your business? “Well, it’s a very social shop. It’s a great pleasure to meet different people from different walks of life. Everybody from everywhere comes here. A lot of good stories and a lot of interesting items.”

Brunzelle added, “A constant challenge of finding out about collectibles and items. You have to educate yourself very quickly.”

What is your least favorite thing to do? “Having to break people’s hearts. When they think something is worth a fortune and we have to tell them it’s not. We have to be the bearer of bad news on occasion,” Holloway said.

What is the best and the worst thing about owning your own business? “Being able to make those decisions for yourself and not having to abide by somebody else’s decisions, whether they be good or bad. And that is also one of the worst things about being a business owner is having to make those decisions, whether they be good or bad.”

What is the biggest misconception about your business? “That everything in here is stolen. A lot of people have the assumption that pawn shops are where people go to fence goods. What they don’t know about pawn shops is that every pawn shop in Illinois is required to take an I.D.. With every purchase, we scan a photo of the I.D. and we report every item that we buy every single day to the police.”

How would you describe your business philosophy? “Always be learning. And don’t judge a book by its cover.”

What do you wish someone had told you before you started? “Get to know your stamps on the metals. Silverplating and gold plating is a very tricky thing. We had a very hard learning curve.”

Daina Saleh is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.