The Republic forgot to put the fact that the City of Phoenix and ASU are going to seize is land for the new Downtown Phoenix ASU Campus and that is a big part in his pawn shop going out of business.

Phoenix's 'pawn father' calling it quits Owner of downtown Jewel Box to shut doors

Angela Cara Pancrazio The Arizona Republic Mar. 20, 2006 12:00 AM

They've come to "the pawn father" when they were overextended at the bank, pawning diamond-tipped knitting needles and thick gold bracelets with "DON" spelled out in glittery diamonds. They've come when they were completely out of cash with nothing to pawn, leaving behind a German shepherd and a wife for a couple of hours as collateral in Morrey Reznik's - the pawn father's - downtown Phoenix shop.

Over the years, Reznik recalls a blind man who pawned his Braille watch, countless cowboys who pledged their saddles for quick cash, and pounds and pounds and pounds of gold pawned for a million reasons.

He remembers the well off, the poor, and all those who fall in between.

The people.

That's what the 85-year-old says he'll miss in May when he shuts his Jewel Box, the pawnshop that he's owned for nearly six decades.

His pawnshop was the great equalizer.

"They always need something," Reznik said. "We all put ourselves in the position of needing something, wanting something."

Reznik's age is making him quit at a time when there are more pawnshops per capita in the United States than ever before, says John Caskey, an economics expert.

But family-owned pawnshops like the Jewel Box, where everything imaginable - jewelry and guns - and the unimaginable - elephant feet and emerald-green scorpion paperweights - is for sale, are disappearing.

Now there are slick pawnshop chains, publicly traded companies that look more like discount department stores than the slightly musty-smelling establishments like the Jewel Box.

"Standardization is beating out the old mom-and-pops," says Caskey, who visited pawnshops while writing Fringe Banking: Check-Cashing Outlets, Pawnshops, and the Poor.

Pawnshops in the United States date back to the late 19th century in New York. As the United States became more industrialized, more goods were available and working-class Americans without credit history began borrowing from the pawnbroker, putting their watches and jewelry up as collateral for a small loan (with interest.) Pawnbroking was already established in Europe, Caskey says, tracing its early beginnings there to Italy in the 1400s and thousands of years ago in China.

Reznik opened his first Jewel Box in 1949 on South First Avenue, then in 1975 moved to its location at 601 N. Central Ave. He has ridden the ebb and flow of a changing world. He started in a post-World War II boom and adapted his shop to the culture of each passing era.

In the late 1950s, when customers were seeking their fortunes with the Cold War uranium rush, Reznik stocked Geiger counters. The pawnshop, his wife Honeylou says, was authorized by the "atomic commission" as a Geiger counter repair station. During the 1960s Beatles era, the pawn father made sure that electric guitars and drums were plentiful in his shop. In the 1970s, the Jewel Box was known for its authentic silver and turquoise jewelry. Then there was the gold-chain craze.

And during the 1980s real estate crash, the pawnshop brimmed with tools from laid-off construction workers. In the 1990s, hundreds of video games filled the shelves. Now, there are two.

There's always been gold and guns, but gun sales were strongest after Sept. 11, 2001.

In the final weeks of the Jewel Box, there's more of an eclectic mix of goods, from the brightly colored scorpion paperweights and double-lock stainless steel handcuffs to silver martini shakers and Rolexes.

For all those whose lives had gone astray and passed through the Jewel Box doors, Honeylou said her husband always had an ear for the gamblers, the drug users and the prostitutes. That's why he was dubbed the pawn father. Reznik had an ear for everyone.

As much as he tried to help, he was a businessman who made a living offering small loans and selling used goods, his life as a pawnbroker was imperfect, too.

Twenty years ago, Reznik paid $300,000 to settle a lawsuit with the attorney general for overcharging customers. Reznik has little to say about the suit. But he does remember the day, also 20 years ago, when a man walked into his shop, picked up a circular power saw, plugged it in and tried to cut off his head, killing himself in the Jewel Box.

These days, the pawnbroker's life has slowed down. After taking a few tumbles, Reznik stays closer to home and shuffles around the pawnshop with a walker.

He's never without a loupe; there's one in his pocket and three at the shop.

You never know when you have to examine gold or a diamond or find a sliver in your finger.

Using a loupe, a thumb-size, high-powered magnifier, Reznik was always quick to spot a fake.

"You look for certain marks," Reznik says. "If you handle anything long enough, you will know the difference between the real stuff and the crap."

He developed an innate sense from listening to the spoken word.

"The way that they tell you how they got it, how long they've owned it, and the value," he says.

"They don't know enough about the item, they're asking too much for it or not enough.

If the ring don't ring right, I can feel it."

Reach the reporter at or at (602) 444-8126.

Crazy Atheist Libertarian
Crazy Atheist
Government Crimes
Government News
Religious Crimes
Religious News
Useless News!
Legal Library
Libertarians Talk
War Talk
Arizona Secular Humanists
Putz Cooks the ASH Book's
Cool Photos & Gif's
More cool Gif & JPEG images
Az Atheists United
HASHISH - Arizona
Messy Yard Criminals
Papers Please, the American Police State
Tempe Town Toilet
Tempe Town Lake
"David Dorn"    -    Hate Monger
"David Dorn" Government Snitch?
Free Kevin Walsh
U.S. Secret Service
Secret Service Political Prisoner
News about the Secret Service
Western Libertarian Alliance
Phoenix Copwatch