Each Friday at 8.55am you will find Desley and her trusted little companion Louie, at Kingston Café ordering a trim flat white, before they head off to work.
It was here I got to chatting [with Louie first, actually] and discovered Desley had an occupation that has never crossed the desk of a recruitment agency and is steeped in history and stories: Pawnbroker.
Research showed that as mankind’s oldest financial institution, pawnbroking carries on a tradition with a rich history.
It can be traced back at least 3,000 years to ancient China, and has been found in the earliest written histories of Greek and Roman civilizations. Today we can still see the three gold balls that still remain the trademark of pawn shops.
Introducing Desley Sullivan, Pawnbroker
Desley has been a pawnbroker for some 20 years. She was drawn to it through one of her loves – jewellery. It happened as things do sometimes, by accident.
When looking for a job involving this passion some years ago, and having been on various interviews, Desley was drawn to one position in particular because it included learning on the job, and the learning would happen quickly. From this beginning Desley went on to learn the trade and then purchased an existing business which is where she is today.
It is a 6 day a week operation, the pace is steady and the customers are varied. In pawnbroking there are three mainstays to the business model: Buy, sell and loan.
The loan aspect is a non-traditional loan. The loan is based on the value of an item for 3 months. A pledge ticket is issued and at the end of the time a redemption fee is paid to retrieve the item.
“All three aspects are equally important and the three parts work well together,” according to Desley. Her business is buoyant most of the time which she attributes to the fact that it is simple, straightforward and doable with 90% of the loans being small.
And to set the record straight right up front, Desley knows what she is dealing with. Being fair to people is a biggie, in her books. Good rapport building skills are essential as is treating people with respect. Desley emphasises it is all too easy for some to pre-judge others and look down on them. Yes, she sees some people in very vulnerable states, which is all the more reason she must display a calm demeanour, a no-fuss style, warmth and an accepting manner.
‘All kinds of people and all walks of life’, is how Desley describe her customers. Whilst talking with Desley, several people came into the shop. On their lunch breaks from their office jobs, these were women who wanted to make a purchase and sell some old jewellery that was no longer in vogue. I did note that they wandered around, took their time and enquired about a number of the pieces tucked away in the cabinets, feeling very much at home browsing.
“Trends come and go and from one day to the next you never know what you are going to get.
The variety is huge, just huge!” according to Desley. “Antiques, fine china, watches, silver, gold, come and go.” She feels particularly saddened by the lack of appreciation for heritage in our ‘replacement society’ as she describes it. “I wonder how antiques will fare in the coming years?” she muses.
Desley confesses her eyes still light up with jewellery. She has never tired of her occupation and being ‘shiny object-curious’, she can’t resist checking out jewellery shop windows when she is out and about. I think we’d call that passion!
With only 4 pawnbrokers left in Auckland City, they are a disappearing bunch. Perhaps the only reason Desley will disappear is the fact that Auckland Council have dibs on her location as part of the possible underground train development. Fingers crossed this does not happen.
And finally to the other love of her life and the reason I started chatting to Desley – Louie.
Louie is a Bichon Sydney Silky Cross. He is charming, disarmingly cute, bright-eyed and wriggly. Louie has followers. A range of people pop in just to see him on a regular basis.
Desley Sullivan, Pawnbroker
63 Victoria Street West, Auckland.