Jeff Manes: From ‘gearhead’ to businessman
October 19, 2012 1:54PM
Mark Cannon, 45, of Schererville, is pictured in his business, Loansum Pawn, in St. John. Cannon, who has been in the pawn business since 1989, said, “Computers have made the job so much easier.” | Photo provided
IF YOU GO
What: Loansum Pawn
Where: 8167 Wicker Ave. (U.S. 41), St. John.
More information: Call 365-7296.
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:04AM
“... Hocked my wife’s diamond ring last June,
Bought me an outboard Evenrude ... .”
— Joe Stampley,
Walk into Mark Cannon’s business, and you’ll find everything from very old Schwinn bicycles to nearly new Craftsman tools.
Pat Boone albums are available, as is a fine array of jewelry. Minnie Minoso and Andy Pafko baseball cards from the 1950s are on display.
No, Cannon doesn’t have a booth at a flea market; he is a pawnbroker. His place of business, Loansum Pawn, is on U.S. 41 in St. John.
Cannon, 45, lives in Schererville and has been married to Rita for 21 years; they’ve raised three children.
Were you raised in the St. John-Schererville area?
“No, I grew up on the Griffith border of Calumet Township, right off of Ridge Road and Chase Street. I attended Calumet High School.”
“It was a lot of fun; Calumet Golf Course was right there. My grandmother lived right off the Cady Marsh Ditch; it was real swampy in that area. We used to catch turtles and stuff like that.”
Did you play sports at Calumet?
“No, I was more of a gearhead. I was more into hot rods and motorcycles. I still have a ’66 Chevelle that I’ve had since high school.”
Do you deal in automobiles at the pawnshop?
“No, I don’t really have the storage to mess with them much. You can’t pawn titles in Indiana.”
Pawnshops have been around a long time.
“Oh, yeah. Pawnshops have been around for thousands of years. Everybody asks about the three-ball symbol displayed in the windows of pawnshops. That was an early family crest when they started lending back in ancient Rome.”
Mark, in some people’s eyes, the pawnbroker is seen as a smarmy or seedy sort.
“In the movies, the pawnshop was portrayed as a shady, dark kind of place. The History Channel’s program ‘Pawn Stars’ brought the pawnshop into a little bit better light.”
I love “Pawn Stars.” Is it an accurate portrayal?
“The gist of it is, but it’s certainly scripted.”
What percentage of the clientele come back for their stuff?
“It used to be really high, probably at least 80 percent, but now, with these economic times we’re in, the percentage has drastically decreased. I still say the better part of half the people come back.”
Some folks bring in items with the sole intention of making a straight sale.
If you lend me $100, and I come back for my pawn, how much do I have to pay you back?
“That would be $120; 20 percent is what we’re allowed to make on the pawns.”
On a straight sale, the sky is the limit as far as your profit margin.
“Yes, but we try to treat people as fairly as we can. Typically, I’ll double my money. To keep it really simple, if something costs $100 brand new, I am going to buy it from you for $25 and sell it for $50.
“If I’m going to lend on an item that costs $100 brand new, I’ll give the customer a little bit less. By the way, I have to keep that item for 90 days.”
You must know your gems and precious metals quite well.
“Yeah, you either have to have some sort of schooling or know someone who will mentor you and teach you what’s what. I have some schooling on the subject, but don’t have a formal certificate. I worked for a jeweler in Crown Point for a while and at Ameripawn in Valparaiso.”
“I’m doing really well right now; gold and silver are the big thing. I’m trying to get as much of that as I can. You see all these ‘we buy gold and silver places’ popping up. It’s my opinion, those places won’t be around in a couple years. The pawnshops will remain. We try to pay a little bit better and treat our customers better so they keep coming back.”
Other than gold and silver, what else is hot?
“Good electronics, whether it be iPads, iPods, smartphones, DVD or Blu-ray players.”
You test everything, I’m sure.
“Of course, when we buy it and when we sell it.”
“I’ve never dealt with them, because I’m so close to Lake Central (High School), they gave me trouble getting a (federal firearms license.)
You have quite a display of guitars.
“Yeah, I have a couple of employees; we’re all musicians in one aspect or another. It appears as though we’re overstocked with guitars, but that’s because I had an auction about a month ago. I got rid of a lot of my tools and electronics that had piled up.”
Do you do that often?
“Yeah, I’ve been having auctions about once a year, just because the economy is so bad. We’re taking in more and selling less.”
Operating a pawnshop is probably a little more recession-proof than a lot of occupations.
“To a degree, but you still have to have a lot of capital and a lot of room.”
How does a pawnbroker know if goods are stolen?
“We don’t; we have to take everyone’s word for it. In Indiana, you must have a photo ID and you have to be 18. We also will need your signature and a thumb print. That deters a lot of stolen goods from coming through here.
“For the most part, it’s not what people think. I have a really good rapport with most of the local police.”
That computer is invaluable to you.
“Yes, computers have made the job so much easier. I’ve been in the pawn business since 1989. At that time, some of the shops I worked at still kept a hand log and big book ledger. eBay and the Internet in general are invaluable.
“In the old days, we had these huge blue books where we’d look up the values of everything. We also had to read all the newspapers to keep up on sale prices.”
Antiques and collectibles?
“I bought a Civil War belt buckle off a guy today. We’ll take anything and everything like that.”
“It’s a lot of red tape for not that much money.”
In my eyes, Mark Cannon is a legit businessman who has a very interesting job.