Striking Gold with “Hardcore Pawn’s” Ashley Gold

Wild, crazy and always filled with drama, every day brings something new for Ashley Gold at American Jewelry and Loan, Detroit’s largest pawnshop. Working alongside her father Les and brother Seth, the store has reached a new phenomenon thanks to their hit show, “Hardcore Pawn.” Each week audiences are given a glimpse into the “controlled chaos” of this family-owned and operated business, and Gold insists what’s shown on TV is what they deal with on an every day basis. “It’s business as usual when the cameras are rolling.”

Now in its 8th season, “Hardcore Pawn” has been a hit since it premiered in August of 2010 on truTV. In fact, it set a record as the network’s most watched series premiere to date.

Business As Usual

With hundreds of people passing through the doors each day with items to either pawn or sell, there’s bound to be some crazy merchandise. From hissing cockroaches to a 10-carat diamond ring, Gold has seen it all and says when it comes to pawn, there are no limits to what people are looking to unload. “Anything is fair game!”

The store boasts a very large inventory – there’s more than 40,000 items in pawn, says Gold – including rarities such as a Mickey Mantle baseball, a van belonging to the late Jack Kevorkian, even a piece of Abe Lincoln’s hair!

Customers who pawn an item are given a three-month loan, in which time if they repay it, they’ll receive the merchandise back. But when a customer doesn’t make good on the loan and wants their item, things get interesting. Fights are known to break out and security is always present, says Gold, who says she’s had her share of irate customers. Working in the male-dominated business has forced her to be tough, though. As she puts it, she’s grown “a thick skin.”

All in the Family

Brothers and sisters are known for their sibling rivalry, especially when they spend six days a week together working. Just ask Gold. She explains that she and brother Seth each have their own ideas of how they’d like to see the business grow. The result? They butt heads … a lot.

As general manager, Gold is the “front-of-the-house” person, dealing with customers and researching items (her specialty is jewelry – she’s GIA certified). Seth is the man behind the scenes, keeping the family business up to date with new systems, implementing and running the website and handling the online business and ebay store.

“Without Seth, these advances wouldn’t have taken shape,” Gold says. In her words, Seth is more “new school” compared to the “old school” mentality she has when it comes to working in this business.

Looking at things from a different perspective is most likely a result of being involved from such a young age. While most kids were spending their Saturdays playing outside, Gold worked alongside her father. She remembers dinnertime as a time when her dad shared interesting stories about his day.

“I used to always think, ‘What a cool job.’ I never heard him say how he didn’t want to go to work, and that left an impression on me. It was one of the reasons I wanted to go into the business.”

Gold wrote her first pawn ticket at age 7, and though she knows she has some pretty big shoes to fill, she’s intent on making it happen.

In addition to doing what she loves, Gold is also venturing outside the family business to start one of her own, Pawn Chick Radio, which debuted in June. She wanted something that was “her own baby,” and says that her online radio podcasts feature celebrity guests discussing the latest trends, fashion, hot topics and – of course – pawn. 

Next Stop, Pawn Shop
As a result of the TV show’s success, American Jewelry and Loan has become a tourist destination with visitors coming in droves just so they can say they own something from the widely recognized shop. It’s been a wild ride so far, Gold says, and as a result of their ever-growing popularity, the family has capitalized on their success by opening up a second location in Pontiac, MI.

“The show has shined a new light on pawnshops by showing they’re not the dark places people thought they were,” says Gold. By giving audiences a closer look at an industry that’s been around for a long time, this family of pawnbrokers say they’re proud to have helped other businesses grow by showing it’s cool to come to the pawnshop!

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