If you’d like a reading on how the economy is affecting the average San Franciscan, you could call an economist. You could study wages and layoffs. You might even graph the rise of foreclosures.
Or you could stop into the Provident Loan Association on Mission Street behind the Old Mint.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said manager Ben Shemano. “We have people bringing in their last treasures, filled with unrealistic hopes and expectations.”
Shemano and others at Provident don’t like to think of it as a pawn shop. There are no handguns, toaster ovens or electric guitars in the window. The store – which deals in jewelry, silver and fine art – was founded by the city’s financial bigwigs in 1912 to combat runaway loan sharking. For generations it has been the place to go when a piece of jewelry happened into your hands through inheritance, good luck or a broken heart.
“For years I developed a cozy little business with engagement rings,” Shemano said. “The engagement didn’t work out, someone wanted to go to Mexico, so they sold it.”
Things changed about a year ago. People aren’t coming in for spare cash any more. This is financial life and death.
“This is the worst I have ever seen,” said managing partner Joseph Chait. He would know: His late father took over the business in 1965; his wife’s grandfather started working there in 1952. Chait has been there since 1971.