Boise pawnshops thrive amid downturn

As Ellie Morgan walked into Vista Pawn to sell some sporting equipment, the store was doing a brisk business. One man stood before the counter to pawn a shotgun. Next to him, a woman was selling jewelry. Next to her, a musician recovered his previously pawned guitar.

Morgan, 20, just wanted to get rid of the stuff that was taking up space in her Boise apartment,

“I tried Craigslist,” she said, but found no takers. “I don’t have room to store them.”

People go to pawnshops for many reasons, but they have been using the shops more since the economy started souring four years ago.

As banks have tightened lending, home-equity loans have become scarcer and credit cards have blown past their upper limits, people have been turning to pawnshops for quick cash to make ends meet.

“More affluent people are needing to borrow money,” said Tim Birkle, co-owner with his brother and sister of GNP of Idaho, which owns three Vista Pawn shops in Boise and Nampa, and Airman Pawn in Mountain Home. “Small businesses need to make payroll.”

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