JACKSON, Wyo. — For 24 years Graham and Dorothy Mercer have loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to valley residents — if they had something to leave as collateral.
But Saturday will be the last day their Alpine Pawn Shop will be open and their “guard dog” Pomeranian Jack will be cuddling up to customers.
This week they’re selling the treasures they’ve accumulated, from leather jackets to diamond rings. They’ve sold most of the store’s contents over the past several weeks.
“It’s an interesting business,” Graham Mercer said. “It gave us a good living but at the cost of having to be here. It’s like a bank. You can’t really close the doors.”
The Mercers sold the East Broadway property to Chabad-Lubavitch of Wyoming. The Jewish group plans to put a synagogue on the land.
The Mercers are retiring to Bainbridge Island, Wash., closer to family.
Mercer, an old sailor from Australia, looks forward to sailing around the San Juan Islands after being in landlocked Wyoming for several decades.
The couple began their business in 1990 after owning the old Sagebrush Motel in Jackson.
“My wife always wanted to lend money,” Mercer said.
Dorothy Mercer also ran a realty business out of their shop for about 20 years. She moved on from that four years ago, Mercer said.
To supplement their pawnshop income, they sold string instruments like guitars and banjos. All of the instruments are gone already, he said.
What’s left is “a mixed bag,” he said.
Over the years he’s given loans for boats, trucks, cameras and all sorts of tools. One of the most expensive items he ever had pawned to him was a gold Rolex.
He joked that a tag line for his shop was all about how they advanced funds and helped relationships.
“We loan money,” he said. “Don’t borrow from your friends, borrow from us. You’ll lose your friends, you’ll never lose us.”
He developed good relationships with people over the years and appreciated their support.
All of Mercer’s pawns will be taken over by the Pawn Shop and Sporting Goods, next to the gas station at 560 W. Broadway, pawnbroker Don Gaitan said.
“I am getting all their business,” he said.
His shop will be the only one in town now that Mercer is closing. The shop has been in Jackson for more than 40 years.
Gaitan is a discerning pawnbroker, though. He won’t take electronics and stuff that was accepted by the Alpine Pawn Shop. As a pawnbroker he has to submit lots of information to law enforcement about who pawned what, he said. He’s worried most electronics could be stolen.
People would “pawn their underwear if I’d take it,” he said. “But I’m not going to do that. I’m really picky. I don’t have room.”
He takes firearms and jewelry, mostly, but will also accept the occasional clean chain saw and leather saddle. He takes acoustic instruments.
“It’s a tough business,” he said. “You have to know what you’re doing or you’re not going to make it.”
The pawn part of his store pays his rent, he said. His retail sporting goods operation brings in the real income.
Business has been up ever since the TV show “Pawn Stars” on History started airing.
“Everyone has to come in the shop now that they’ve seen the show,” Gaitan said.