Move over boys, make way for the ladies of Pawn Queens! Recently Imperfect Women had the opportunity to interview Nikki Ruehl and Minda Grabiec, of TLC’S Pawn Queens. Nikki and Minda co-own Naperville Jewelry and Loan. Be sure to check out Pawn Queens on TLC, Wednesdays at 10pm ET/9pm CT.
Can you explain the pawn process for those of us that aren’t familiar?
PQ: We loan you a percentage of that item’s value and we’ll give you half of what its worth. Then every month after that we charge interest on that amount, and when you come in and pay off the full balance, you receive the item back. It’s sort of like a get cash quick thing. It’s the simplest form of collateral.
How do you determine value?
PQ: We use eBay, Craigslist etc. to 1) determine the value, and 2) figure out how many of an item is out there, if they’re selling and what they’re going for. If it’s something like gold or silver- those values are determined on a day to day basis based on the market.
What types of items do you not accept?
Minda: Stolen Merchandise!
Nikki: Fur coats….Summer rolls around and if you haven’t sold some big beaver or mink, you have to pay to store it properly and that costs money. And personally, I just don’t like the idea of it. Sometimes the guys are there and Minda and I step out for lunch, and we come back and there’s a flippin’ full beaver that they bought, with its feet dangling around the neck! It’s like really guys? Really? That’s what I don’t like.
Has the recession affected business?
Nikki: It’s made it boom! That’s why we went into this type of business. It was the perfect opportunity to make money and help people out at the same time.
What’s the most unique thing in the store right now?
Nikki: The 12 foot knight is the most unique. We did have a 6 ft knight and I thought that was cool, I’m not digging the 12 foot knight though. A lot of people think it’s cool. But I think it’s too much, a lot of other people like it though.
What happens to things that don’t sell?
PQ: We try to keep stuff moving. There’s stuff from when we first opened and needed to make the store look full. There are some garage sale type items – grandma chachskis. Eventually we’ll throw things not of high value away. You write it off and toss it.
Do you ever have to deal with difficult customers?
Nikki: Minda, I haven’t dealt with a difficult customer, have you?
Minda: I have a knack for dealing with people that could be difficult… that makes them not difficult anymore. Maybe I’m the difficult one?
How did the show begin?
PQ: One of the owners of an entertainment company from Naperville, was in town for his 20th high school reunion. He liked us and liked the store…. and it snowballed from there.
Is the reality TV process what you thought it would be?
PQ: Umm….. oh boy. That’s kind of a tough one. It’s a lot of work I guess because it’s throwing another job on our plate. All in all it worked out. Whether the crew or the cameras are there we’re still at the shop, we’re still working, it just makes it a little bit longer day.
How have customers reacted to the cameras?
PQ: They love it. They come in and say “we want to look around, we wanted to meet you” and it’s fantastic. A lot of them have never been in a pawn shop before. They’ve really come out in this community and accepted us warmly.
How long have you been in business together?
Minda: We opened the store in January of 2009, prior to that we worked out of our homes doing gold parties and what not.
How did you all meet?
Minda: I’ve known Greg my whole life- we’re cousins. And I met Nikki and Mike through Greg. They went to high school together.
Do you regret anything that happened while filming?
Minda: I’ve had some bad hair days but other than that……
Nikki: Not really, I don’t think that any of us have done anything that was like “Oh my gosh, I offended you!” We’ve all known each other for 15 years. We fight on camera and we fight off camera. We try to watch our boundaries, sometimes we go further off camera then we would on camera because it’s a respect thing. If we’re ripping on each other you don’t want the whole world to see.
Minda: You can speak for your self Nikki, I don’t care. (Laughing) I have to say I probably swear the most of anybody. I don’t want to be too callous on my partners and my friends because they [viewers] can perceive it differently because when it gets on camera it can look worse than it is I think. We all love each other, and we love to hate each other.
Nikki: I don’t want to cross boundaries on TV and do something I can’t take back. Words are harsh and we can get over it amongst ourselves but if it’s on TV, someone might not get over it as easily as if the cameras weren’t there.
Minda: Nikki, have I offended you?
Nikki: Absolutely not, not anymore than you do any other day!
How many days a week do you film?
PQ: We’re open Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. The only difference in filming and not filming is more hours and more makeup than we normally wear.
Were you nervous or concerned about privacy?
Minda: At first, I had definite concerns being someone who is a little camera shy. From July when we first filmed, to filming recently, there’s a huge difference. You get comfortable with it, like they aren’t even there. The cameras don’t follow us home, it’s filmed at the shop and the shop alone.
Do you socialize outside of work?
Nikki: Yes, often. We see each other all day and sometimes we’ll have dinner after work, we go to our kid’s birthday parties, or you know, cookouts over the summer. It depends on what we have going on.
Minda:It depends on who’s buying!
What do your kids think about the show?
Nikki: I have a son that just turned ten and a daughter who is six and they thinks its pretty cool. I take them to school and the teachers and other kids see me on TV. They ask my kids questions and the other kids think it’s cool. Of course they thought I was cool to begin with, but now they think I’m even cooler. They like the attention
What’s your biggest imperfection?
Minda: I swear a lot!
Nikki: I’ve got one Minda! I know what yours is. It’s easy to pick someone else’s out- Minda is a little short circuit.
Minda: I have high standards, I expect a lot out of people. If that’s a flaw…..
Nikki: I’m always sticking my face in the mirror. What’s imperfect about me is that I try to be perfect which can drive you crazy if you let it…..