The last place downtown to pawn jewelry, tools and electronics is set to close. Longtime Vancouver fixture Lucky Loan Pawn Shop will shut its doors at the end of August, according to co-owner Jeff Lanford.
The closure all but shuts the book on downtown Vancouver’s once-bustling pawnshop scene. Lucky Loan was at one time one of a half-dozen pawnshops in the southeast corner of downtown. Once it closes, the only one left will be Briz Loan & Guitar, which deals exclusively in musical gear.
Pawnshops generally operate by offering 90-day loans to customers in exchange for items of value put up as collateral, which are either returned upon repayment of the loan or, if it isn’t repaid, sold as store merchandise. Guns, guitars and taxidermy are some other common pawns.
The official end date for Lucky Loan is Aug. 31, and the business stopped making new loans as of June 1, Lanford said. The remaining three months will be focused on selling everything in the store, right down to the display cases. Going-out-of-business sale signs will be in place soon, he said.
The decision to close was bittersweet, Lanford said, but he and co-owner Kelly Cloepfil are currently the only two employees at Lucky Loan and they’re both ready to retire. They considered selling the business, he said, but didn’t find any interested buyers.
The COVID-19 pandemic made business tougher in the past year, he said, in part because federal stimulus checks and boosted unemployment compensation appeared to decrease the need for loans. Lanford said he expects that part of the business to bounce back eventually, but he and Cloepfil were already eyeing retirement in 2022, so it made more sense to just move up the date.
“I don’t have a problem with going out a year early,” he said.
Heyday for pawnshop scene
Lucky Loan opened in 1954 in a storefront across the street. It moved to its current address, 614 Main St., in 1976, according to Lanford.
The heyday for Vancouver’s pawnshop scene was about 20 years ago, he said, when visitors would come downtown specifically to browse through Lucky Loan and five other nearby pawnshops. That was around the time he and Cloepfil bought Lucky Loan, taking over as third-generation owners of the business.
“Over the years, we’re the last remaining one,” he said, apart from the music-exclusive Briz.
The most recent closure came in 2018 when Cameo Main Street Loan and Pawn Shop — formed in 2003 when Main Street Loan and Morgan’s Cameo Loan merged — shut its doors, citing online competition and lower demand for loans amid a thriving economy.
Online retail has cut into the pawnshop business model on the merchandise side, but Lanford said there’s still demand for short-term loan services, and the closure of Lucky Loan will leave that need unmet in the immediate area. At least five other pawnbrokers operate shops in other parts of Clark County, including Hazel Dell and Orchards.
Lucky Loan is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and is closed Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.