SHERIDAN — Pawn shops serve a distinct role in a community, operating as both a trip down memory lane and a bank.
The three pawn shops in Sheridan — all located on different parts of Main Street — have the same basic operating principles but different selections and atmospheres.
Pawn Broker co-owner Corrie Lanners has worked at the store off and on for the past 25 years. The shop has a mix of regular pawn store items like gold, silver, jewelry, guns and ammo, along with electronics and musical instruments. It also includes a U.S.-made Japanese $10 bill, photographs from the early 1900s and books from the 1850s, but those are not what keeps the store going.
“We are a short-term loan business,” Lanners said, noting his store’s $3,000 loan limit. “This isn’t something (where) you borrow money to buy a house.”
Pawn shops must comply with city, state and federal government guidelines and report every item to local law enforcement. Store owners must keep paperwork for every object purchased and sold, along with verifying the identification of every person who receives a loan or sells an object.
Lanners sees between 6,000 and 8,000 items per year pass through his doors and said staying updated on the extensive regulations and paperwork is the most challenging part, though it keeps most pawn stores on the up and up.
“Pawn shops used to have a real crappy reputation as being seedy places,” Lanners said. “That hasn’t happened for years.”
Moreover, Lanners doesn’t purchase items from people who aren’t from Sheridan or Buffalo. If someone has a pawn shop in their hometown but are trying to sell an object out of town, his thinking goes, something about the situation is questionable. Even for tourists driving through town looking to sell, Lanners declines. The practice may slightly decrease revenue but eliminates most of the potential hassle that comes with purchasing a suspicious item.
Big Horn Trading, LLC co-owners John and Kathy Lundberg started the store about five years ago as a survivalist store and pawn shop.
“We’re the bank of last resort,” John Lundberg said. “We develop relationships, have regular customers who come in when they need cash and we help them out.”
Guns, ammo and tools are the most popular items. The Lundbergs are moving more and more of the business toward offering options online.
Long hours and lack of easy parking options present challenges, but the Lundbergs enjoy interacting with different customers and supporting the community.
John Lundberg has been working in the pawn business for about 18 years and has sold unique items like a World War I trench periscope, a motorcycle and an airplane.
“A fun thing (is) if you’re looking for something, sooner or later it walks through that door,” he said.
“There’s a lot of really cool stuff that comes in and out of these places,” he said. “You never know what it’s going to be.”
2-Bit Swap Shop owner Cody Quarterman has owned the store since 1991. His parents ran it for about 13 years before that.
“Scared to death at first, but everything worked out,” Quarterman said of his time as owner.
Quarterman no longer sells guns because of all the time and paperwork associated with them. He mainly offers saddles, knives, sporting goods and music items, along with rarer items like German beer mugs and cowboy memorabilia.
The store has more open space than the other two and carries far fewer items. It has a more laid-back vibe and is a hub for locals to stop by and chat.
“If you treat people right, that’s the best thing that is going to help your business,” Quarterman said. “We’re all in this life together.”
The toughest part is turning down people who want to sell something or receive a loan. Quarterman said he turns down about 30 percent of the offers he receives.
“You deal with the people that are down and out,” Quarterman said. “You deal with the people that have money management problems; and you deal with people that are addicts.”
Business remains steady most of the year, though often by different means. Quarterman said the winter months are more suited for swaps and customers paying interest on their pawned items, while summer means more sales from out-of-towners. The Lundbergs also said hunting season, Christmas, Father’s Day and other holidays often lead to a short-term increase in sales.
All of the owners said the internet is an essential tool to help with price estimates, but Lanners noted that it also makes it easier for people to find collectible items and not bother looking in pawn stores.
Success depends on the economy and staying knowledgeable about many different markets.
“This is not a business where you just open the door and hope you’re going to succeed,” Lanners said, adding that construction on North Main Street hasn’t helped Pawn Broker. “It doesn’t matter what you get if you can’t sell it … We always try to price our stuff at less than 50 percent of what it would cost to buy.”
Similarly, Quarterman said he usually offers about one-third of an item’s retail value and sells it for about half its retail value.
Quarterman doesn’t mind having two other pawn stores in town and recommends people shop at the other places if they can’t find a certain item in his store.
Kathy Lundberg doesn’t consider the other two stores adversaries, either.
“It’s just another choice,” she said. “I’ve never felt a high sense of competition here.”
Pawn shops have to comply with extensive regulations because of their dual role. In Sheridan, the stores carry different selections of items and seem to work with each other to keep business steady.