When you walk into Loan Star Pawn in Irving, Texas, you’ll see the typical array of guitars and guns on the wall. In the middle of the store is a long bin with an array of tools of all shapes and sizes. You’ll also see a table right in the center, where local Irving-ites sit, read the newspaper and sip coffee.

“People have told me, ‘That table is killing your business,’” says the owner Vince. “They talk about how there are always these cars parked outside morning and night, and people come and sit and drink their morning coffee, but they don’t buy anything.’

“I tell them, ‘That table is why I do what I do.’”

Vince knows most of the people who come in and greets them by name. Many of them have been coming to this pawn shop for years, like John and Mary.

Today, they’ve come to check out what’s new at Vince’s pawn shop and see if there’s anything they can’t live without. But they’ve also come to be with people they’ve known for years. To them, this store is like an old friend’s house, where they can come, hang out, listen to others’ stories and share their own.

Underneath the glass tabletop, you’ll find pictures of Vince’s friends and customers over the years. John and Mary point out a photo of them from 15 years ago:

“They’ve got some great guitars here,” says John. “I’ll tell you what: If you really want to see some neat guitars, go to Two Frogs Grill in Ardmore, Oklahoma,” he tells me as he sits at the table. “All sorts of famous people have played there and donated their guitars – Ozzy Osbourne, John Lennon, Paul McCartney…. You need to stop there on a road trip one of these days.”

I’ve got that restaurant etched in my brain for the next time this Texan makes it up to Oklahoma.

Behind the counter, Vince is busy chatting with other customers, so we look around the store and snap some pictures. As he finishes up and waves farewell to them, we begin to ask him about his journey in the pawn shop industry and what he finds most rewarding about his career.

“We’re really here to provide a service to this city. My family has been part of the Irving scene since 1962, and my shop opened over 25 years ago,” says Vince. “It’s a shame that we tend to get lumped in with less reputable businesses. Charity functions always come to us for support, and we put on a dinner for the community every Christmas that feeds 200 people.”

When we ask Vince to share his favorite story of helping someone, he brings out a picture frame with an old newspaper article in it.

Roy Campanella’s 1955 World Series championship pendant had been stolen from his wife, Roxie, when she was visiting Dallas. The thief came into Vince’s pawn shop to sell the pendant. Vince knew immediately that it was stolen, but he went ahead and bought the pendant because he knew that if he didn’t, the man would probably just go to other places until he found someone who would buy it—someone who might not realize or care that it had been stolen.

After buying the pendant, Vince immediately notified the authorities, described the thief and gave them his license plate number. The pendant was returned to Roxie, who was extremely grateful. The Dallas Morning News covered the story.

Vince notes that a good pawnbroker will be able to tell right away if something is stolen. They perform background checks and take other precautions to prevent the possibility. Such precautions are in their best interest, since selling a stolen item often ends up being a huge loss for them as well as the victim of theft.

Vince excuses himself for a moment to attend to a waiting customer who presents him with a gold chain. “$60,” he says confidently, after a short examination, and hands it to an employee.

He comes back over to talk about pawn shop loans. “The benefit of a no-recourse loan is that we don’t come after you. You don’t ever have to worry about your credit score dropping or a pawn shop hunting you down the way you would have to worry about getting in trouble with a bank. We just keep the collateral, and that’s it.”

We then ask him how he got into the pawn shop industry.

“After getting a journalism degree from UNT, I landed a job with Marriott Corporation in sales, then worked at the Ritz Carlton for a while in Naples, Florida. My brother owned a pawn shop on Irving Boulevard and asked if I wanted to come back and learn the pawn industry. People couldn’t believe I was gonna leave a sales job at the Ritz Carlton to go run a pawn shop in Texas, but it’s the best decision I ever made.”

“You know, I bartended my way through college. Running a pawn shop is a bit like bartending because people want to tell you all about their lives, their circumstances and why they’re here. I listen to people’s stories all day.”

As I’m leaning on the counter looking at the different handguns for sale, with a prominent copy of the Youth Handgun Safety Act in the display case, the conversation turns to Vince’s future plans and the outlook for the pawn industry as a whole. Vince mentions two guys in Irving who recently had to close their stores after being in business forever.

“It’s been a satisfying career, but business has gotten hard,” Vince says. “We used to be able to just autopilot, but we can’t do that anymore. The industry is changing. I’m a guy who never embraced Internet or social media, but we all really need to. Right now, it seems like profit margins are shrinking in every area. We gotta do things differently. This is where digital marketing can really help us out. I would love to keep doing this a while, but we have to work smarter than ever before.”

Before we go, we say goodbye to John and Mary and wave to some other regulars who have just come in. Vince has hardly even finished waving goodbye to us when he’s greeting the next visitors by name.

You can visit Vince at Loan Star Pawn at 202 East Irving Blvd. One reviewer calls his shop one of the top 2 pawn shops in the DFW area. Another customer says it’s “worth going just to look at all the neat stuff on the walls, and most of it has a story.”