Best Pawn Shop: Barney’s Jewelry and Loans

Ensconced in a cubbyhole at the back of Barney’s Jewelry and Loans, owner Barry Steinberg takes out a file of pictures from the pawn shop’s early days. When exactly the pictures date from is hard to say. But as Steinberg, cousin of founder Barney Robbins, points out, the listed prices for food, which the store then served, provide some clue: “2 fried eggs 50” (that’s cents), “fish 35,” “coffee free.” Steinberg puts the time period in the ’40s, bolstering his contention that this Pioneer Square establishment is the oldest pawn shop in town. Newer, flashier ones have arisen, he concedes. He says he’s not worried. Steinberg, who decades ago traded in a job as a pediatric audiologist to take over the family business, and who professes to enjoy jawing with his varied clients, says he relies on his reputation for treating people with respect. He adds he’ll often hold onto items way past the required 90 days—sometimes for years—to give customers a chance to buy them back. Despite that policy, you can find some interesting things for sale at Barney’s, including bargain antique jewelry. Bonus tip: Barney’s replaces watch batteries for $10, a service and a price not easily found downtown.

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