Is it true that businesses dealing in quick cash are prospering in the down economy?
We visited several businesses in Largo and posed that question. Included in our research were three pawn shops, an Internet consignment business and an upscale coin dealer. Although the answers varied, there was one constant: If you've got money, there are businesses that have a deal for you.
At Southern Pawn and Jewelry, 950 Missouri Ave., five customers perused the aisles looking at items for sale.
In a corner, keyboards and dozens of guitars were on display. In a nearby aisle, construction equipment, including air compressors, nail guns and paint sprayers filled several shelves. In the center of the store, more than 20 engagement rings glistened like broken glass from the display case.
A custom-made racing bike for a handicapped person sat next to the cash register.
"We've got 10 stores, so with our high volume and number of visitors, things are good,'' said Brian McKeague, store manager. "Where we see signs that it's tough out there is with some of our customers.
"There are customers who we've known for awhile that are having some trouble finishing loan payments.''
When asked what area of the store is busiest, McKeague pointed to the construction items.
"We're taking in a lot of tools right now. People are not building. The workers are bringing in their equipment," he said.
Greg Hawley, owner of Super Cash of Largo, 7169 Ulmerton Road, also mentioned construction. However, his construction concerns were of a different nature.
"Right now because of the road construction being done on Ulmerton, the outside of my store looks like a battlefield,'' said Hawley, who also designs and sells guitars for income.
"I think pawn shops succeeding during tough times in the economy is a misconception," he said. "If people don't have money, they can't buy as much. I need to have buyers as well as sellers. I'm taking it month to month here right now.''
Tom Koenig, owner of We Sell It For You, 13721 Walsingham Road, also acknowledges his business is handling tough times. As opposed to pawn shops, the bulk of Koenig's business is consignment.
"I work with people and sell merchandise on the Internet,'' he said. "I started this business not wanting to bring in a lot of my own cash. People are not buying extras right now.''
Koenig also stressed that his business plan allows him to move on unusual offerings that may come up. Last week, he bought some historical Playboy memorabilia. It included an early edition with Janet Pilgrim, who was Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's secretary and a centerfold three times in the 1950s, and two letters, one signed by Pilgrim and one by Hefner.
Why did he lay out his cash?
"It's a rare, niche piece, and I know that the value will only go up,'' he said. "It doesn't come along very often.''