September 21, 2010

Tough economy means business is brisk at new pawn shop

Shop owner Pete Diodati checks for a serial number on the back of an iPod.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Blink and you'll miss the recent changes on Crystal Avenue – the abandoned Taco Bell has lost its South of the Border paint job and will soon be a Great American Subs sandwich shop; Pauly's Butcher Shop is changing hands and will reopen under new management; and a new pawn shop next to T-Bones – The Pawn Guys – is a hub of activity since opening in August.
“It gets crazy every day between 2 and 5 p.m.,” said Pete Diodati, one of the two “pawn guys” for which the store is named. He and co-owner Wes Russell hatched a business plan rather quickly after Russell found Diodati, who years ago ran a successful pawn shop in Salem.
“What started as him picking my brain about pawn shops ended up with him asking if I'd run the shop,” said Diodati yesterday, between customers.
He points out it is not your father's pawn shop.
“Years ago pawn shops were seedy places. And there are a lot of dirt-bag shops still out there. We wanted to do things right,” said Diodati, a general statement not pointed in any particular direction. He simply means that while times have changed, and many pawn shops cater to a mainstream demographic, there are still those that operate outside the parameters of the law – which are well defined in Derry.
Updated ordinances require pawn shop owners to hold merchandise for 21 days now before reselling; it used to be 14. That change, said Diodati, is due to the feverish flow of goods through pawn shop doors, and the lack of police staff to promptly check what's been pawned against the lists of what's been reported stolen.
Jim Moore, a regular at Pawn Guys, cashes in on a digital camera.
He said so far his shop has a clean record with police. He drops daily logs of merchandise pawned or sold to police, including serial numbers of goods, photo copies of the seller's driver's license and a picture of the item.
It's not the criminal element that keeps pawn shops busy; in this particular economy, it's anybody and everybody.
“I've been in that position before, walking into a pawn shop. It's humbling. I'm a musician, and years ago I pawned my $2,700 guitar to pay my $800 rent,” said Diodati.
Which is why he is sympathetic when Jason Hunkins comes in with a well-used iPod, still loaded with his personal favorite tunes.
Diodoti does his due diligence, then offers Hunkins $30. He takes the money.
“I can move this in 22 days for about $70. If it was clean and had all the accessories, I could have given him as much as $60 for it,” said Diodati.
Hunkins explained that with a one-month old son and two young daughters to care for now, his priorities have shifted.
“I've been out of work for about a year. I do odd jobs here and there to make ends meet, but $30 for the iPod is baby wipes and diapers,” said Hunkins.
Jim Moore has returned – he's already a regular at the pawn shop. This day he is looking for some cash for his 9.1 megapixel GE digital camera. Diodati smiles at Moore and tries to explain that most digitals sold nowadays are 10 megapixels or higher.
“How much were you thinking?” Diodati asks Moore.
“Whatever you can give me,” he says, as Diodati looks through the box for the missing USB cable.
"Hulk Hogan" dagger?Make him an offer.
“I'm on a fixed income and I end up pawning things just to afford my medication. I have a brain tumor,” said Moore, who is a property manager for Terry Reality. As he waits for Diodati to get the paperwork for today's pawn, he points to all the items on the shelves he's sold to the shop – a small air conditioner, a battery charger, a GPS.
Diodati's merchandise is driven by whatever comes through the door – he has Matchbox collectibles, tools, guitars, a wood chipper, an assortment of knives and daggers – even a paperback copy of “Harry Potter and the Prince of Azkaban.”
“I have literally hundreds of Hallmark Christmas ornaments – they came in from an estate sale. I have no idea what they're worth, but I generally sell them two for $5,” Diodati said.
Another customer enters the shop wanting to know if the shop is taking subwoofers. Her son needs money for a new alternator.
“I can't afford to help him. I work three jobs and I'm tired,” said Lisa St. John, whose son is pulling his car around so Diodati can take a look at the subwoofer and amp in the backseat. He's hoping to sell for $100, minimum. “He needs the money now.”
Diodati looks in his computer for a comparable subwoofer and determines he can only offer $50 for the loudspeaker. Reselling subwoofers is tough, said Diodati – there's no way for a potential buyer to hear how they sound.
“He'd probably be better off asking around. I'm sure one of his friends would be willing to pay him that much,” Diodati said.
“People who pawn things need money to get through the next week or two – with this age of computers, people can't open bank accounts like they used to – if they have something on their history that needs cleaning up, they can't get a new account until they take care of the past,” said Diodati.
“They are living in the present, and it's tough times. I'm a Christian, so it's hard for me when I know they are hurting, and I know how hard it is to come through the door in the first place,” Diodati said.  

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