Les Gold never imagined that life would change so drastically at 59 years old. He's the author of a New York Times bestseller "For What It's Worth," and television star of an international hit show, "Hardcore Pawn." He runs a family business, American Jewelry and Loan, with his two children, Seth Gold and Ashley Broad (Gold). The Gold family are the stars of the reality series, and are changing the way viewers think about the pawn industry.
The pawn business is multi-generational.
Seth shared that roughly 80 percent of pawn shops are "mom and pop" operations, and many are multi-generational.
Les explained, "Most pawnbrokers teach the next generation how to be a pawnbroker. As we travel around the country and go into pawn shops, you see the father teaching the children how to run the business. [The children] grasp it and change it to the new way of running it, but still with the core values in mind."
Running a multi-generational pawn shop is also a value add to customers. Les explained, "People know that we're not going to close our doors tomorrow. We're not a fly-by-night company. The way they give [their valuables] to us is the way they're going to get it back."
Fame is no substitute for building a solid business.
Some entrepreneurs believe that there's a direct correlation between fame and business growth. Seth explained the reality of television fame: "Being a part of successful show like Hardcore Pawn gives you an 'in' to start a conversation a little more easily, but you still have to prove your merit and show what you've created. It's funny, we were in the back office the other day shooting commercials. We've not giving up on traditional marketing."
Les and Seth are happy to be a part of a successful show, but they did not seek it out.
"Remain true to your core business. Maintain who you are, what you do and provide the best service you possibly can. If [a television show] falls in your lap, take the opportunity. If you seek it out and you want it so bad, that's when you can get into a little bit of trouble," Seth warned.
There's no substitute for trust.
Seth believes that pawn brokers provide a valuable service. "Approximately 25 million people across the United States don't have access to a traditional bank. We provide a service for them to bridge monetary problems or circumstances. With the success of the show we've opened up the door, now trending to go to pawn shops. You can use us as another resource to help if you're financially strapped," Seth explained.
Not everyone is a fan of the pawn industry. Some believe that pawn brokers prey upon the poor. Les explained, "We've been on TV for five years and it's changed the perception of what pawn brokers were always thought of. My goal in life was to change that perception. More people are coming into the pawn shop because of the success of the show. People all over the world come to see us."
Running a pawn shop as a family business may also help to build trust. "The areas that we've opened stores in are very happy to see that we're a family-run business. If you're a trusted employer and entrepreneur and the next generation handles the business in the same way, that trust will resonate to the communities around them," Les explained.
Les and Seth are passionate about Detroit. "We're given a great platform with the show. It gives us the ability to go out there and do really special things," Seth explained.
They've partnered with local charities. For example, for the past few years they've rented out the entire store for a night, with proceeds going to a charity that helps to heat the homes of families who can't afford to pay their heating bills. It's opened their eyes to see why families are coming into their pawn shop in the first place. These are often the same customers they serve on a daily basis.