Next time you’re on the Las Vegas Strip, hop in a cab and drive three miles north. Ask the cabbie to stop just before the Graceland Wedding Chapel and get out in front of an establishment titled Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Sound familiar? If so, you’ve probably seen Pawn Stars, the smash hit reality show on The History Channel featuring the shop and four of its employees, including Rick Harrison. After taking a few photos outside, step inside and say hello to Harrison and his crew. Then shop around; you never know what treasures you’ll find.
Harrison and his dad, Richard (a.k.a ‘The Old Man’ on the show), opened the establishment in 1988 as a 24-hour shop. Customers immediately flocked, and business hasn’t slowed since. Still family-owned, the shop attracts thousands of tourists each day largely thanks to rare items (think Super Bowl rings) and its presence on TV.
I sat down with Harrison to hear how his brick and mortar shop has stayed so successful and how, as a small business owner, he landed an enviable TV contract.
Why is Gold & Silver Pawn Shop so popular?
I think it’s because we are so different than other Las Vegas pawnshops, which are mostly owned by large, corporate chains. I made my store a lot nicer than any other pawnshop, too. It has beautiful showcases and is always very clean. It also helps that we are open 24 hours. When we opened, no one else was doing that, and it was a major need in this town. Sometimes people need money in the middle of the night…they don’t want to stop partying, so they come to us.
Do you have security at the store?
Oh, yes. You never see that on the show, but there are multiple armed guards in the shop. My doorman weighs 460 pounds.
How did you land your own TV show?
We were pretty well known in Las Vegas and I’d get national and international press from time to time. Every time someone wrote an article about our shop, I thought we should have a TV show. I pitched the idea to several studios for years before it got picked up. Finally, I hooked up with Leftfield Pictures and they got what I wanted to do.
We did the pilot in early 2009 and just around that time The History Channel was running into programming issues and thought our show would be a good fit. It debuted in July 2009 and it got great ratings right from the start.
How has the show changed your business?
Before the show, we had a few hundred people walk in the store every day. Now we have about 4,000 per day.
Why do you think the show is so successful?
I think people scroll through the lineup of shows on their TV screens, see ‘pawn stars,’ think ‘porn stars’ and click on it (laughing). Really, I think people find the things we sell to be interesting. We sell very expensive things, odd things and we are all a bunch of characters, so it works.
What’s the craziest thing someone has tried to sell you?
Nothing surprises me anymore. I once had someone sell me a home electroshock therapy kit that you can use on yourself. It was a historic piece from a hundred years ago, before medicine was regulated. I love the black medicine stuff .
Is there anything you won’t buy?
I don’t buy anything with swastikas or slave tags. I stay away from that stuff. I believe in luck and good karma. I’ve had people want to pawn pets and I won’t do that, either.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to be here for a few more years. I just signed the longest contract in the history of reality television, so I plan to do it for a while. The day it stops being fun is the day I will sell it.
Image credit: PR Plus