Decades-old pawn shop will either be sold or close by Dec. 31 [UPDATED]Published 6:28am Monday, September 30, 2013 Updated 7:49pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
This is not “Hardcore Pawn.”
There are no bouncers. The owner does not yell at the customers. Rarely do items come into the shop that surprise or intrigue the owner.
This is Golden Lakes Pawn, not nearly as flashy or dramatic as some of the pawn shops popularized on television over the past few years.
“All the stuff in here is just as common and everyday as you can get,” Williams said.
Ken Williams is just fine with that.
Williams, 65, has owned Golden Lakes Pawn for 25 years, during which he estimates he has eaten lunch with his wife about five times. He bought the shop when it was only open once a week and has since turned it into a six-days-a-week downtown fixture.
He has been willing to sell the business for the past six weeks or so, and if he does not find a buyer by Dec. 31, he will simply close up shop.
No deal is close to being completed. Williams has heard of some people’s interest around town in opening a pawn shop once he closes, but has not heard that same interest in buying out Golden Lakes.
“I’ve just been getting older and it’s time to move on,” Williams said. “Twenty-five years is a long time in one spot.”
During his 25 years in Fergus Falls, Williams has noticed some changes to the pawn business. Technology becomes obsolete so quickly that it makes it hard to keep up with the changes. Williams had a collection of Disney VHS tapes that he said used to sell for anywhere from $5 to $100 each. But now, he has a hard time getting $1 for any of the tapes.
Gun sales make up a large percentage of transactions at Golden Lakes. Williams has attended gun shows for years and also does lots of business at those. Of the few things that come into the store and pique Williams’ interest, many of them are antique firearms.
But business at Golden Lakes has mostly stayed steady over the course of 25 years. Williams cannot recall any particular peaks or valleys in business. Through economic boom periods or recessions, he has been able to maintain a stable shop.
Stable does not mean Golden Lakes has been without some problems. Theft is always a concern at the shop. Williams and part-time employee Jim Wedll have seen customers try to steal DVDs or video games, which are kept at the front of the store directly across from Williams’ spot at the counter.
Since opening, Williams has worked closely with the Fergus Falls Police Department. The department calls the shop often is something gets stolen around town, asking Williams to keep his eyes open for anyone trying to pawn stolen property.
“The pawn business has solved a lot of cases of theft,” Wedll said. “Ken has read it in the paper and called the police and said, ‘That item has come into the store.’”
The work sounds pretty exciting, and Williams said the best part of the job is never knowing what will come through the door next. But all things considered, he does not think of his job as a particularly thrilling one. He tries to treat every customer the same and treat them with respect and honesty.
“We try to be as upfront and honest with everyone as we can be,” Williams said. “We even paid more for stuff than people wanted at times.”
Shows like “Hardcore Pawn” and and “Pawn Stars” may be outlandish and might not speak to Williams’ experiences, but they have done some good for his business. In the past few years, he has noticed fewer people skeptical of pawn shops in general. Elderly women have come to the shop just to see what it is like.
But the time has come for Williams to leave the business. He has no immediate plans, no definite next step after he closes Golden Lakes. As a man who never took many vacations during the past 25 years, it is not surprising that traveling may not be high on Williams’ priority list. It might just be time to relax and have lunch with his wife.
After all these years, that must sound pretty good.