Asbury Park Press

Asbury's Century Pawnbroker Customers Get Answer

Asbury Park Press — December 16, 2016

By David P. Willis

A notice posted on the door of Century Pawnbroker on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, the inside dark for more than a month, seeks to console worried customers.

"We are continuously working to reopen so we may serve you," states the note, dated Nov. 18. "We hope to be open very soon. In the meantime your goods are safe inside the store and you are not accruing any additional interest since we are closed."

And now, following a Press on Your Side investigation, those customers might finally get their pawned items back, by going to a sister store in Lakewood.

In recent weeks, Press on Your Side has heard from several Century Pawnbroker customers who say they want to collect their pawned items.

For instance, one Red Bank customer worried about the status of a pawned diamond engagement ring. Another wondered what will happen to people who have pawn tickets. A commenter on the store's Facebook page in October said she had been unable to get her ring back for two months.

Press on Your Side asked the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, which regulates the state's pawnbrokers, for some answers.

Late Friday, the department had an answer.

"The Department of Banking and Insurance has negotiated arrangements with the attorney for the pawnbrokers for the run-off of pledged articles at Century Pawnbrokers of Asbury Park," said Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the department. That means customers can get their pawned merchandise back by going to Century's Lakewood office at Judaica Plaza, 1700 Madison Ave. (Route 9). The phone number there is 732-901-2282. A department representative will be there.

They can start picking up merchandise beginning Tuesday during the store's regular hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, McKnight said. "The run-off will continue each business day in Lakewood for as long as needed to accommodate all Asbury Park customers presenting pawn tickets," McKnight said in a prepared statement.

Century will contact all customers who have complained to the department, post a sign on the door of the Asbury Park store and arrange for calls to the Asbury store to be forwarded to Lakewood. The Asbury Park store items will be kept seperate from the Lakewood store items, McKnight said.

An Asbury Park customer can start a new pawn transaction with the Lakewood store if he or she chooses, McKnight said.

When pawnbrokers close suddenly, the people who can least afford it can be caught in the middle.

Pawnbrokers, licensed by the state, hand out short-term loans against your belongings, such as a diamond ring or gold chain necklace. Nationally, the average pawn loan is $150.

The broker keeps the item until you pay the loan plus interest. In New Jersey, the interest rate is capped at 4.5 percent a month by state law, according to McKnight. You also may pay a service charge of 8 percent of the loan, but no more than $4.

At the end of the loan, you can decide to keep it going by paying the interest. If you don't pay either the interest or the full amount of the loan, the pawnbroker can sell the item for what you owe. According to the National Association of Pawnbrokers, 85 percent of loans are repaid.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said pawn shops typically are used by people who have poor credit or don't have access to traditional banks. They may need quick cash to pay for an emergency, such as a medical bill, rent, utility bills or home repair, or need extra spending money.

"They think that this is the only way to get quick immediate cash that is often needed for an emergency," Salowe-Kaye said. "We consider a pawn shop to be a fringe financial institution."

Salowe-Kaye wants you to know there are options to pawn loans. For example, some traditional banks offer unsecured quick turnaround personal loans, secured credit cards or a credit-builder loan, which is an unsecured loan for debt repayment

"We have worked with banks to develop products that people can use in emergencies without having to turn to these fringe operations," she said. The goal is "to get people to begin to use mainstream financial institutions that are going to be open when you go there, that are not going to close on you."

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