SPRING HILL — Nora Romano describes Prestige Pawn & Jewelry as “the reinvented pawn-shop experience.”
Bright lighting, sparkling cleanliness, tasteful displays, academic- and artisan-credentialed employees and family owners on the premises. Nora and her husband, Christopher Romano, along with their daughter, Lexi Romano, have parlayed the shop into area prominence.
Nora concedes that “dingy and scary” are words ascribed to the stereotypical pawn shop. But Prestige Pawn aims for a mainline retail experience, especially for women customers and for the shop’s extensive fine jewelry line.
A welcoming look through the door at 5155 Commercial Way in Village Square plaza, plus “100 percent customer service,” are what the Romanos believe prompted customers to vote Prestige Pawn & Jewelry as Best of the Best among Tampa Bay pawn shops in a summer survey.
“We give respect regardless of what their circumstances are,” Christopher Romano said.
Primarily, a pawn shop is a money lender. A client requests a loan, offering as collateral an item of value greater than the loan amount. The value is established by the licensed pawnbroker.
State law sets the loan period at 30 days, extendable in 30-day increments. Prestige Pawn charges a 25-percent monthly interest rate on the outstanding loan, also set by law. The owner may reclaim the item by repaying the loan or may turn ownership over to the broker, who may put it out for sale.
Loan customers often are having a difficult financial time, sometimes not of their own making.
“Most times, it’s something they don’t want to do, but have to do,” Christopher Romano said. The broker’s challenge, he added, is helping a client who’s feeling deflated to exit the shop feeling better.
Some 80 percent of pawned items are redeemed by their owners, Nora said.
In more upbeat circumstances, owners sell items outright to the pawnbroker. Often they are goods left to them in estates or that is excess as they downsize.
“Pawnbrokers are great recyclers,” Lexi Romano said.
Occasionally, goods passing through pawnbrokers have been stolen. By law, Prestige reports electronically every item in detailed description and forwards the list to law enforcement statewide.
"We assist quite often,” said Christopher Romano, in turning over stolen goods.
Since the brokers set the prices, Prestige Pawn prides itself on its employees’ credentials in establishing value. They hold certifications in gemology, jewelry evaluation, diamond essentials and counterfeit coin detection, as well as college degrees and multiple licenses. They also use instrumentation and outside specialists for authentication.
Jewelry, tools and electronics are big sellers at Prestige — on site, on EBay and via the shop’s on-line auction, available at cashprestige.com. Online sales account for about half of Prestige Pawn’s business.
On site, gold, gemstone jewelry and one-of-a-kind pieces make up the shop’s collection, which larger than many local jewelry stores, Nora Romano said.
Tools for every building trade — contractors, electricians, roofers, plumbers, etc. — are checked for workability before they go up for sale.
Game stations lead electronics sales. Musical instruments, including guitars, student violins and keyboards, sell quickly.
In five years of operation, Prestige has handled some “cool items”:
- A parachute ”sold quickly” at about $600.
- A note written by Clara Barton, pioneering nurse of the Civil War and Red Cross founder, signature authenticated.
- A gold grill with two diamonds for wearing over front teeth as ultimate bling, not yet priced.
Prestige Pawn & Jewelry is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; phone (352) 515-0064.
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