A pawn shop next to the likes of Hermes, Tiffany’s and Chanel on Rodeo Drive would have, just a few years ago, been an unheard of sight.
But the classic pawn shop, where you sell or get a loan for your jewelry to pay back later, is making waves in the most unlikely of places, tony Beverly Hills.
The recession has proven that even the richest of the rich fall on hard economic times and, now, when they need fast cash, more and more of the nation’s “1 percent” are electing to trade in their jewels.
Yossi Dina is the owner of South Beverly Wilshire Jewelry and Loan, an exclusive pawn shop that caters to the rich. Clients stream into his Beverly Hills store offering valuable merchandise in exchange for cash, fast.
One such client is Vanessa Kalcheim, a Beverly Hills hairdresser going through a divorce. She brought in a Harry Winston diamond necklace with a $600,000 retail price tag for Dina to appraise.
“Nobody will give me a loan,” Kalcheim told ABC News. “The jewelry doesn’t work for a bank so my best option was to go to a pawn shop and try to sell it.”
Kalcheim said she hopes the necklace will bring her quick cash to hold her over until she receives her settlement from her divorce.
“I need to pay for them [her children],” she said. “The clothes, the food, if I want to go to Disneyland. Children cost money.”
Dina estimates Kalcheim’s necklace will sell for around $300,000 to $400,000. He offers to give her $150,000 to $200,00 for a loan on the necklace and then pay her the difference if the necklace sells. It’s a deal Kalcheim accepts immediately.
“First I am going to look for a new place to live and pay the down payment with this money,” she says. “And start over.”
The transaction shows that a new breed of pawn shops are no longer seedy places with barred windows. They’re now hot spots for buying and selling used goods, and even the focus of reality TV show fame. In short, business at pawn shops is booming because the economy isn’t.
“We are in a bad time and it’s getting worse, but rich people buy,” Dina said. “People come here at the worst time, and they leave feeling great.”
“The difference between me and the bank is with the bank you have to wait 60 to 90 days,” he said. “With me, it’s immediate.”
Signs of a recession seem to fade once you walk inside the walls of Dina’s store. The contents of his walk-in vault are valued at millions of dollars and include jewels like a Cartier bracelet and one-of-a-kind items like a solid gold guitar.
Some customers in desperate need of cash even bring their jewels and treasured possessions into Dina with no intention to actually sell the valuables.
Former football star Dokie Williams brings his 1983 Super Bowl ring into Dina’s store any time he needs quick cash. Williams takes out a loan on the ring, valued at $10,000, and then always returns before it ever sells.
“This is better than a bank, the ease of it and the control of it,” he said. “Besides, this [the ring] is safer here than it is with me.”