Downtown pawn shop to close

Published 9:17 pm Friday, August 5, 2016

A pawn shop that has been in operation downtown for nearly 30 years is calling it quits.

Bunny’s Pawn Shop will close as soon as it can liquidate its remaining inventory, manager M. John Russo III said.

“The business ain’t what it used to be,” he lamented recently.

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The shop used to do a lot of check-cashing, which provided a sizable amount of income for the business. But in recent years, several large local employers forced their employees to use direct deposit, and the state began issuing some benefits on cards rather than in check form.

“That cuts out the middleman, and that’s me,” Russo said. He said he made between $800 and $1,500 every month on cashing checks alone.

People also have begun to sell their gold rather than getting a loan on it, because they can get more money that way, Russo said.

The business began in the late 1980s on the corner of North Main and West Washington streets. It later moved down the block and then, in 2013, moved to a former Laundromat building on South Saratoga Street after the building was sold to make way for loft apartments and new retail spaces.

“It’s a good location,” Russo said recently in the South Saratoga Street building, surrounded by televisions and guitars up for sale. “If I could make a living, I’d stay.”

Russo took over the business about 15 years ago, when his father retired.

Russo said he has notified his pawn customers that they should come pay off their loans and pick up their items, and almost all of them have done so. The shop’s inventory of items for sale will be liquidated soon, he hopes.

Russo does have another business venture he’ll now be able to focus on more. He’s the manager of the Ambassador Club in Portsmouth, a special-events venue. Now that he will have more time to devote to it, he hopes to be bringing in more business there.

“I’ll miss all my friends I’ve made down here,” he said of downtown Suffolk.