‘I have to have these sunglasses. And oh my god, look at those diamond bracelets. Ooh and these cufflinks!’
If you’ve been on a shopping trip to New York City, no doubt institutions like Bergdorf’s, Bloomindale’s and Barneys ring a bell. We are at none of those places: we’re not even in the same borough. Instead, we’re at a pawnshop in Queens and the 30-year-old woman oohing and ahhing over the accessories not only selected many of the items for sale in this store (EZ Pawn at 42-27th Street in Long Island City), she’s part of a 14-store NYC pawn empire founded by her father, David Kaminsky. Also, her name is Gold Girl – well, by reputation, at least.
Lauren Kaminsky Goldman (aka ‘Gold Girl’) is the woman responsible for making pawnshops cool, chic even and Beauty & Essex – the restaurant, bar and nightclub with retro appeal – is the place where it happened. Back when the Manhattan restaurant opened in 2010 (near a slew of hip downtown New York hotels, including The Ludlow), it got noticed for two reasons: 1) they serve free champagne in the ladies’ bathroom (hard not to notice that) and 2) patrons enter through a fully functioning pawnshop with vintage guitars, vinyl and jewellery that’s often displayed on Barbie and Biggie Smalls dolls.
Goldman started stocking the shop at Beauty & Essex back in 2011, creating an environment and aesthetic that would distance her operation from the traditionally seedy stereotypes of pawnshops. Then, when the restaurant launched locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the pawn princess brought her curatorial prowess (and vintage baubles) to Nevada and Cali. So, with her impeccably curated pawnshops now stretching from coast to coast, I picked her brain for shopping tips as I learned how to wheel and deal like a pawnshop pro while wandering her family’s store in Queens, examining old-school cameras, opal cocktail rings and Indian wedding necklaces cast in brilliant yellow gold…
UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU’RE SHOPPING
First things first, how does a pawnshop work? Suppliers have the option to either sell an item or pawn it: a pawn is a loan. In New York, shops must hold a piece for a minimum of four months before placing it on the sales floor. If you do sell an item, you may never see it in the shop cases. Pawnbrokers often sell to wholesalers and vintage shops, or they melt gold. ‘Lately, high-end brands have added vintage sections to their stores’, says Goldman. ‘They’ve kind of rebranded the whole concept, but it’s what I’ve been doing for years.’
Not only do pawnbrokers know their inventory, they’re also the ones who will ultimately price what you want to buy. Say hello, be friendly and create a relationship with the person behind the counter. ‘Hopefully they’ll give you a better deal’, says Goldman.
‘Pawnshops are filled with one-of-a-kind treasures and their inventory changes constantly’, says Goldman. Come with an open mind and a willingness to browse. Also, checking back at the same store even a few days later may lead to a new discovery.
HAVE A PRICE IN MIND
Before you start negotiating, ask yourself ‘what is this item worth to me’? Have a number in mind, the maximum amount you’d be willing to pay, but obviously start negotiating at a lower price. Also, ‘make the broker offer up the initial figure’, advises Goldman.
KNOW THE PRICE OF GOLD
Pawnshops adjust their prices based on the current value of gold, so know that number – you can Google it. If you’re shopping when gold is down, you can use that as leverage – you’ll also impress the socks off the broker in the process. ‘If I was working and a client mentioned the price of gold’, says Goldman, ‘I’d be so impressed, I’d want to work with them to strike a deal. It shows they know their stuff and I respect that.’
Shopping done, put your newfound skills to the test at our boutique hotels in New York.