Fair Trade/Welcome Back to Washington Street Pawnbrokers

by Nathan Oravec

Since the creation of man, one common need intrinsic to the species has proven the concurrent doorway to all commerce throughout the years: To trade. This bodes well for Bob Nemes, owner and operator of Washington Street Pawnbrokers, 47 E. Washington Street in Hagerstown, who took over the store’s reins last August.

Nemes came to Washington Street with 13 years total experience in the art of pawnbrokerage under his belt. He launched Famous Pawnbrokers in town nearly nine years ago, but when his business partner injured his back, the choice was made to sell. Nemes would remain with First Cash, a company out of Texas who owned the franchise, for five and a half years after selling the business, serving as a supervisor. After his tenure there, he made his way back to the city, where he purchased Washington Street Pawnbrokers from its previous owner last year.

A family owned and operated business, Nemes and his wife Laurelyn are enjoying the new venture. “It’s great, actually,” he says. “I love it.”

“I haven’t actually worked in the city before. It’s a neat, community type thing. On snowy days, when you wouldn’t think business would be up, it turns out to be really good, because the weather doesn’t prevent the regular customers from coming out.”

“We deal in everything,” he continues. From televisions to teapots, VCRs, videos, video games, DVDs, music, musical instruments, microwaves, and even cell phones, the shop certainly does have just about everything but the kitchen sink, and there’s always the chance that someone will bring that in, too.

“Tools are always a big seller for pawn shops. We’re also one of the last shops to deal with guns - rifles and shotguns, no handguns - which is kind of neat. The rifles are a big draw. When [other shops] stopped carrying them, a lot of folks were left hanging. A lot of people just like to store them here. They don’t like having them in their houses, so they loan them to us for a little bit of money and whenever they need them, they come back.”

“We try to keep an all around [selection.] This way the ladies can come in and look at the jewelry, the men can come in and check out the tools, and the grandfathers can come in and look at the guns.”

Items are accepted at Washington Street Pawnbrokers in one of three ways. Many customers choose to sell an item outright, while others might have something adequate to trade. “For example, a customer might bring in a 31-inch television and trade it in for a 25-inch upgrade,” says Nemes. “There’s virtually anything you can do.”

Loans, like the aforementioned rifles, are also an option. “Sometimes customers have sentimental attachment to items, and don’t necessarily want to sell things.” Instead, customers can loan items to the shop in exchange for cash, and later buy them back for an additional low-interest fee.

“One of our biggest customers is the construction worker,” Nemes explains. “They seem to never get paid from the people they work for. Here, they can bring in an item and borrow a little bit of money to hold them over until they get paid.”

“Most people really stereotype pawnbrokers,” he continues, noting the misconception that criminals use such shops to pawn stolen goods. Nothing, he says, could be farther from the truth. “You can see, there’s nothing like that here.” In addition, by requiring that customers present two forms of ID, any dishonest behavior is strongly discouraged.

Layaway is also available, for customers who wish to make payments on an item for purchase.

Two other big sellers for Washington Street, notes Nemes, are DVDs - sold at $6 each - and video games. “Why go to a store and spend nearly $40 a piece for games, when you could come here and spend $10-$20 and be far, far ahead of the game?”

Since opening, Nemes has had some interesting items pass through the door. “Jet skis and four wheelers are always the greatest thing in the world to get. We’ve had boats come in. Canoes. They’re always fun to put out on the floor, because they’re so big.”

For now, Nemes and family are just enjoying their business, and seeing what comes in next. He eyes a large, pink, ceramic pig poised in a corner. “People just love that stuff,” he laughs. “This is a great place.”

Hours for Washington Street Pawnbrokers, 47 E. Washington Street, Hagerstown, MD, are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 301-791-PAWN (7296).