South Loop Pawn & Hobby Shop won in the category of Best Pawn Shop in the E-T's Best of Erath contest. The E-T sat down with owner James Smola to learn more about the business and to discuss the weirdest item someone has tried to pawn.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Smola opened South Loop Pawn in 1984.
2. The shop makes collateral loans and they buy and trade items that people don’t pick up.
3. The shop has a little bit of everything like guns, guitars, jewelry and tools.
4. One feature that makes South Loop Pawn unique is its hobby shop.
“We put in the hobby shop about 20 years ago when I started flying airplanes,” Smola said. “From the airplanes, we’ve added RC cars, RC trains, plastic models, but what we’re doing a lot nowadays is the Tandy Leather for people who do leather craft.”
5. In the hobby shop, Smola has plastic model airplane and rocket kits for children.
“We try to have lots of kits and things for kids of all ages to actually do versus sitting on a computer playing video games,” Smola said. “Kids can actually build and play with it afterward, you know, if it’s a remote control or a plane. We try to have stuff that they’ll actually learn something with.”
6. Elaine, Smola’s wife, and Jessica, his daughter, also work with him at the pawn shop.
7. They each have two dogs (six dogs total) who are always visiting the shop. They have three Australian shepherds, two German Shepherds and a border collie. Their names are Junebug, Vermin (or Tara), Kenya, Glory, Ziva and Zara.
8. James has owned the pawn shop for 40 years so it was difficult for him to name the weirdest item someone has tried to pawn, but one that sticks out to him was a stuffed turkey.
“We had a girl sell her boyfriend’s stuffed turkey. I think she called it Harold,” James said with a laugh. “Come in and look around because there’s all sorts of stuff."