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Philadelphia pawn shop survived the Civil War, now it faces the Great Recession

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

A small business in downtown Philadelphia has proven that some things are near recession-proof. Hard times are boon times for hocking jewelry, and that’s brought brisk business for one pawn shop.

Carver W. Reed & Co. at 10th and Sansom Streets is one of the oldest businesses in the city. Founded in 1860, it survived the Civil War, it survived the Great Depression, and the current owner Tod Gordon says there no reason to think it won’t survive the Great Credit Meltdown.

Gordon’s grandfather bought the business in the 1940 and it has been in the family ever since. Gordon only buys and sells jewelry, usually the very expensive variety. He says his customers tend to be small business owners in need of quick, short-term loans when banks are hesitant.

“We got a lot of people in construction,” says Gordon, “because a lot of times there’s a period where they’re waiting for the money to come in, and they still have to pay for supplies to buy the lumber, to pay employees on their payroll. It’s kind of a swing loan for them – they can’t go to a bank and get a loan for a month. They can come here and get a loan for a month.”

Gordon says the pawn shop business is not entirely recession-proof. When people can’t pay back their pawn loans, Gordon is stuck with the merchandise. And in a recession, few people buy jewelry, even at used prices.

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