After learning the pawn business from his uncle, Kelly Swisher opened Arlington Jewelry and Loan, Inc. in 2002. The store, located in the suburban city of Arlington Heights, IL, northwest of Chicago, was the first pawn store in the city. In addition to running the store, Kelly is also president of the Illinois Pawnbrokers Association. “I truly believe the pawn business chooses you, you don’t choose it. I am thankful it chose me,” says Kelly.
National Pawnbroker (NP): In your opinion, what does the future look like for the pawn industry?
Kelly Swisher (KS): We need to be very careful not to take for granted how fast laws can change that negatively affect our industry – both state and federal. Our industry has a bright future as long as we all participate, but we need to be vigilant. I think we will always find a way to loan on something of value. I’m sure pawnbrokers from just fifty years ago could have never imagined a world where pawnbrokers would be loaning money on micro drones and mobile telephones!
NP: What are your top three goals for 2019?
KS: 1) Increasing our presence on social media and our positive reviews because this translates to more customers in the door. 2) Increasing the speed and efficiency of the loan writing process, whether that is through technology or our process, as long as it is not sacrificing the great personal customer service we are known for. 3) Spending the time and money to continually educate my coworkers through seminars, conventions, or classes that add to their knowledge.
NP: What marketing techniques do you use to generate traffic to your store?
KS: We have several promotions that we run all year round one of which is a free birthday loan. If a customer originates a loan in their birthday month, the first month’s service fee is free. If a customer currently has an item in pawn during their birthday month, we will pay that month’s service fee. In both cases, it’s on loans up to $500.
NP: How does your company give back to the community?
KS: We participate in many charity auctions and are always willing to donate a piece of jewelry for a good cause. For 10 years, we have helped sponsor a charity golf outing benefitting suicide prevention. For the last 15 years, we have provided a pizza party for the Arlington Heights police department during the holidays.
NP: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you since becoming a pawnbroker?
KS: Just recently we had a customer walk in with a parrot on her shoulder. She acted like it was totally normal, so we acted like it was something that happens every day. I must say that it was hard to concentrate while a parrot looks at you swaying back and forth as if you were talking to it.
NP: Why are you a member of NPA?
KS: Being the president of the Illinois Pawnbrokers Association has taught me how valuable it is to have someone looking out for our best interest. On more than one occasion, I have had to drop everything and run to Springfield (our capital) to oppose some new law that was suddenly introduced. Many pawnbrokers only hear about this after the fact or not at all.
The NPA is doing the same for our industry on a national level. Without the NPA, we would be unaware of issues in Washington and most likely not have the relationships with lawmakers that we need to protect our industry. It is always disappointing to me when I hear that a pawnbroker doesn’t belong to their state association or the NPA. In my opinion, the NPA is an extension of my business. They are looking after my best interest in Washington, just as our state association does here in Illinois. As an industry, we are powerful, but as one single shop, we have very little power.
NP: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
KS: I love to fight. I’m constantly training in Street Fighting, Krav Maga, and Ground Fighting.
For more of Kelly’s story on how he got into the pawn business, see his article, “Thanks, Uncle Jimmy!” in the Spring 2018 issue of National Pawnbroker.