Walk in the front door tucked under a bright neon sign featuring store mascot Uncle Willy and to the left you’ll see the tool corral, fit for the hobbyist of all interests in search of a specific tool.
A few feet away, step into your childhood garage band dreams, as stage lights illuminate a makeshift jam session setup, complete with concert posters from every generation and guitars of various makes and colors.
Tucked behind that, the freshly applied brocade wallpaper sets the atmosphere for an afternoon of elegant jewelry shopping.
Other walls are a splattered mix of Ye Olde Hock Shoppe owner Deron Nicholson’s unique antique taste, from vintage Coca-Cola signs to forest paintings to which he’s added touches of his love for vintage cars.
Ye Olde Hock Shoppe, 9315 E. Trent Ave., has only been open since mid-July, but it already has solidified its identity as not the average pawn shop.
“We wanted to create a different atmosphere,” Nicholson said.
Ye Olde Hock Shoppe, inspired by the original name of pawn shops, isn’t the typical cluttered, dive-like establishment many are accustomed to when thinking of bartering items for cash.
Co-owner Mitch Flores, Nicholson’s brother-in-law, said he “wanted something more casual and friendly. Not so sterile. … I don’t want (the customers) to just be a number in the store.”
Nicholson said they understand a lot of pawn shop customers are living paycheck to paycheck or are down on their luck at the time, but “we try to make them feel at ease walking in.”
They also want to reach out to those who don’t typically visit pawn shops, adding many people have “junk” around their house such as antiques or vintage items that they don’t know what to do with, for which they hope to provide an alternative to the online marketplace.
Each area of the shop has its own identity, from a seasonal space featuring items from bicycles to snowboards and leafblowers, to the tool shed-like back room, a music stage with shelves of vinyl records, a jewelry shop and electronics and memorabilia displays.
Ye Olde Hock Shoppe’s foundation dates to a family chitchat at Thanksgiving dinner. Flores’ 30 years in the pawn shop business combined well with Nicholson’s passion for antiques. Add to that Nicholson’s son Darby’s education in business, entrepreneurship and social media marketing, and they decided to bring it all together.
With $350,000 to buy the building, $150,000 in improvements and remodeling, a $375,000 revolving line of credit and the $22,000 neon sign out front, they still had to invest $100,000 in startup inventory.
“I’m about $1 million into it,” Nicholson said. “It’s a big cash flow because it takes a lot to get it up and going.”
Nicholson said when he went to apply for the business license, he learned a new pawn shop had not opened in Spokane in 20 years. “I was like, ‘Is this good or bad?’ ” he said, but so far customers have been really supportive.
With that much initial startup cost, Nicholson said, it is daunting to get into the pawn shop business. When they buy something from a customer, the item has to sit in the back on hold for 30 days while it goes through a police check for possible stolen items. Loaned items are held for 90 days, at which point if a customer doesn’t buy it back with interest, it can then go on the storeroom floor.
“That’s a cash flow hurdle,” Nicholson said.
Flores added that being a family-owned and -operated shop allows them a bit more flexibility as to what they will consider and offer. “It isn’t all about the dollar amount. We care about the people and their situation,” he said.
Darby Nicholson said he never imagined being a co-owner of a business at 22, but “even if we aren’t making a ton of money, we are gaining valuable knowledge. And we are up for the challenge.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.