When you first enter Southland Pawn, the gentleman that you meet smiles softly and greets you with a cheerful, “Hello!” The shop looks small, but in reality the building is just as big as the heart of the man behind the counter. Tony Franks is the owner of Southland Pawn and believes that everyone who enters his front door should be greeted with a smile and a willingness to be as helpful as possible.
A Lot Can Happen In 25 Years
Franks is the first to admit that a lot can happen in 25 years. Since the store first opened in June of 1991, the pawn shop has not only grown but is now a vital part of a growing community. In 2005, Franks knew that his business was growing and was guided to purchase the building where the shop is now located. “God let me know I was going to need a warehouse,” said Franks. Franks knew there was a plan in place so he started looking for a building big enough to allow his business to meet its full potential.
He purchased the property at 603 Saint Augustine Road and watched his business continue to move forward. Back in 1991, VCRs were a popular item in pawn shops. Considering they sold from $400 to $600, they were an incredibly lucrative item. Over the last 20 to 25 years, electronics started to fall out of favor. Now the most popular items are jewelry and larger items like cars, motorcycles, trailers, and riding lawnmowers. The guidance to buy a larger building has paid off and allows him to store a wide variety of larger items.
Helping Those The Banks Won’t
The pawn business has been good to Tony Franks and his family. When he opened the business his ultimate goal was to support his family and to fill a need within the community. He loved meeting people and he actually enjoyed the business. He quickly realized that for some people, being able to pawn an item was a life-changing opportunity. “Banks won’t lend you $50, $75 or $100, but I will.” If a person brings him an item that is valuable enough to provide them with the money they need, he will gladly help them out. He also allows them to renew the arrangement if they want to get their item back. “I don’t want to keep their things. I’m here to help them out of a bad situation.”
The Pawn Process
Television shows like Pawn Stars, sometimes give people the wrong idea about the business. Not everyone who walks through the front door has an antique or vintage item they want to sell. For some, it may mean pawning their wedding rings in order to get food for their children or it can mean pawning a family heirloom so they can get their rent or mortgage payment. In Valdosta, Tony Franks has seen a lot of people just trying to make ends meet.
Pawn shops primarily deal in two types of business. They buy items that people no longer want and resell them. They also offer a “pawn” service. When a person needs a “loan” to make ends meet, they can bring in an item of value and the pawn shop will give them a reasonable amount of money in comparison to the item’s value. The person can use the money for groceries, utilities, or whatever they need. At the end of 30 days, they can bring in the pay off amount and reclaim their item.
Oh How Things Change!
When he first started the business, electronics like VCRs were a staple part of his business. Over the years, however, many of the more popular items began to lose value simply because the market was saturated with them. One of the biggest misconceptions is that pawn shops normally carry a lot of guns and weapons. Not Southland Pawn. While Franks does take in a few here and there, they are not a main part of his business. Instead, he is more willing to take in larger, big-ticket items like cars and motorcycles. He even has a few riding lawnmowers. Part of the reason for this is that a person may want to sell an item without having to worry about waiting for a buyer to get a loan. By selling it to Franks, they will get a good portion of the item’s value upfront without having to wait.
The Ability to Give Back
One of the things Tony Franks loves most about his business is that it allows him to give back to both the community and his church. He knows his business can help others make ends meet at times, but that is only a small part of it. He also gets to support his church, Corinth Baptist Church located in Lake Park.
“I’m a big supporter of my church. We have a bus ministry where we pick up between 60 and 80 kids every Wednesday and Sunday. We feed them and teach them. A lot of people don’t realize what’s going on in this county. We know a lot of children aren’t eating right. They live on junk food so we try and meet their needs,” said Franks. “We’re in a depressed area so we have a lot of options where we can help the kids.”
Family owned and operated, the business offers a comfortable atmosphere where anyone who enters feels welcome. What may seem like an unassuming pawn shop located on the southern edge of Valdosta is actually a small beacon of hope that Franks uses to give local residents a hand up when they need it. It isn’t about the money. It’s about helping those who need it the most.
Southland Pawn is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can visit the store at 603 Saint Augustine Road in Valdosta or call 229-244-3346.