Florida Keys Business
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Pawn it off
Liquid 8 Pawn triples in size and services

With a spacious new location, sparkling glass jewelry cases and neatly arranged products, Liquid 8 Pawn looks more like a department store than a pawn shop.

Gold, silver and gemstone baubles fill the center of the shop. The tool department is back on the right, fully stocked with jigsaws, sanders, drills, socket sets and battery chargers. The second-floor features polished musical instruments, recording equipment, dive gear, fishing tackle, electronics and appliances and everything else - including, literally, the kitchen sink.

The store operated for nine years on Truman Avenue, in a space that was a fraction of its current size.

Owner Rick Igo moved the operation in May to 1970 North Roosevelt Blvd., which formerly housed Conchy Joe's bait and tackle shop.

And his expansion continues.

Venomous Ink, the island's third tattoo shop, will open in a few weeks in a space attached to the pawn shop. And Igo is in the process of installing a vault to house hundreds of safe deposit boxes to be rented monthly.

"A lot of people down here don't have a checking account," Igo said. "They'll keep cash or valuables under their mattress, and then get ripped off by a roommate."

The new service will allow them to safely store their possessions - and a soon-to-come night drop will allow box holders to make cash deposits on their way home from a late-night bartending shift.

"We're really like the people's bank," Igo said, adding that the image of pawn shops has been changing dramatically.

"I deal with wealthy people, working people, poor people," Igo said, though he did acknowledge that his shop likely sees a more eclectic clientele than most other retail shops.

On any given day, a betrayed wife may sell her diamond engagement ring. A single mom may pawn her grandmother's jewels - just until payday. And construction workers may just need some quick cash.

Customers have the option of selling their items or pawning them. When pawning, the shop offers a loan based on the value of the item being pawned. When the person repays the loan over time, plus interest, they reclaim their item.

"At least 80 percent of our customers get their stuff back," Igo said, dispelling the notion that pawn shops insensitively profit from other people's financial problems.

The vast majority of his inventory was purchased outright from a seller, and is not the collateral left for a loan.

Liquid 8 also offers check cashing services and fair prices for items.

"Granted, it's not like TV," Igo said. "We don't have expert appraisers come in to value an item, but we use the Internet to figure out what something is worth."

Jewelry pieces are generally about four times cheaper in a pawn shop than in a jewelry store, he said.

"We price pieces based on the weight of their materials, so it's based on the price of gold or silver that day," he said.

And the misconception of pawn shops being filled with stolen goods is dispelled daily when pawn shop operators turn in a list of every item they accepted that day, and those lists are compared with law enforcement's daily "hot sheets" of items reported stolen.

"We're in bed with the cops," Igo said. "And we just want to be a one-stop shop for working people's financial needs.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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