Written by The Business Journal Staff
Owner: Majestic Jewelry and Loan Co.
Education: AA degree in business administration
Family: Wife Gina Alchian and five children: Roxanna, 34; Ashley, 31; Nathan, 29; Brittney, 29; and Trevor, 24.
What is the history of pawn shops in general?
Pawn shops date back to ancient times and are one of the earliest recorded lending institutions. During the late middle ages, the House of Lombard in Europe had a group of pawn shops designated by three golden balls prominently hung outside of the establishment’s premises for patrons to see.
In the late 1870’s the pawn industry came to central California with the first settlers. In the early part of the 20th-century pawnbroking was regarded as the main source of consumer credit.
With the rise of large consumer credit institutions, such as finance corporations, savings and loan associations, and credit unions, pawn shops are no longer a primary source of consumer credit. But Majestic Jewelry & Loan pawnshop still plays a vital role in the area providing consumer credit to customers in need.
Tell us a bit about the history of your shop.
My grandfather and his four bothers escaped the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. They came to the United States at the turn of the century. Each one of them had skills pertaining to jewelry, and some were skilled tailors. My grandfather John, alongside my father Leon Sr., opened Majestic Jewelry and Loan Co. in 1949.
When did you take over the shop?
I took over the family business after my father passed away in 1988.
How has the pawn industry changedsince you took over the family business? Has it grown more popular in recent years?
With today’s technology and social media at our fingertips, advertising the business has been much easier. However, with California’s laws constantly changing, selling firearms has been a challenge. Being one of the few pawn shops in the Valley to sell firearms motivates me to keep up with the updated laws and make the changes necessary to continue selling them.
You’ve recently opened up A music and memorabilia shop called Majestic Music. What influenced you to open the music store?
Majestic has always sold instruments. After 22 years, my tenant next door retired and I had a great idea to expand Majestic, and the two stores separated.
What is something that might surprise people about your industry?
Believe it or not, 90% of the people that pawn their items do redeem them as opposed to defaulting on merchandise.
Last year you commissioned a mural for the side of the Majestic building featuring rock stars from history including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin and The Beatles. What prompted that?
The murals identify the downtown area. We are going to have more and more of these go up on the walls, and it’s going to have an identity. It also draws attention to my building. With the music store, it also ties the shop to the artists featured on the wall.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my spare time, I like to golf, play softball and play racquetball with my youngest son, Trevor. I recently, started lifting weights again as well.
What was your first job and what was the most important lesson that you learned from it?
Other than a brief stint at the CHP Academy in 1982, being a pawnbroker is all I’ve known since I was 9-years-old. The most important lesson I’ve learned in this business is just because they are down on their luck when it comes to money doesn’t mean they’re inferior. I’ve always lived by the philosophy: “Kill them with kindness and you will have a customer for life.”