Pawnshops often have a bad rep for being seedy with questionable business practices. But owner Kelly Swisher defended himself against these stereotypes when he attempted to expand his business to Palatine.
"I can tell you that probably 95 percent of the people I know, when you mention 'pawnshop,' they think it's going to be dark, dusty, smoky," he told the Palatine Village Council, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I'm going to be standing in a stained ... T-shirt, chomping on a cigar behind a chain-link fence, giving you $10 for your Rolex. That's the image that Hollywood has given you, and surprisingly, a lot of people believe it's still that way."
But pawnshops aren't the scandalous operations many think they are, he says. They're regulated by the state; and Swisher IDs and photographs every seller. Swisher submits information to nine area police departments daily (though he is not required to), deterring thieves from trying to pawn stolen items. Of his 1,200 transactions last year, only three were stolen items.
Swisher was hoping to open a new shop in a Northwest Highway strip mall to cater to his many Palatine customers. And while he had the support of police and neighboring businesses, the Village Council rejected his permit request 6-1.
"Does Palatine need a pawn shop? Are we lacking that to make us a rounded community?" Mayor Rita Mullins asked during the village council meeting. "I have a little trepidation about the whole concept."
Despite Swisher's good reputation, officials just couldn't get past the preconceived image. Mullins admitted that pawnshops' common notoriety affected her vote.
"The whole idea of a pawnshop carries some negativity to it," Mullins said. "I just don't think we have a need to invite that type of business into our community as yet."
And that means Swisher is out of luck in Palatine.
"I can't change the image of pawnshops in general," he said. "I can just show you how I run my business."