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Noxious or neighborly?

"Noxious or neighborly?" Continued...

Gavriel Shaulod for 10 years has managed Arthur's Gold Market in East Harlem, buying and selling to customers from the surrounding poor neighborhood. He calls himself the neighborhood guy because he helps his customers in financial difficulties: "People are absolutely grateful that I'm giving them money because it means that they aren't getting evicted from their homes."

One customer asks the value of her wedding and engagement rings. Shaulod peers through a jeweler's loupe, sighs, and meets her eyes apologetically. The rings cost $1,500, and Shaulod offers $300, explaining that he bases his offer on the amount he knows he can get for the ring. A diamond's price, like a car's, falls the moment it leaves the jewelry store.

Shaulod hides a smile each time one particular man makes his monthly trip to the shop and pawns his wedding band. Every month the man's wife drags him back to the shop, yelling and screaming at him to buy it back. Shaulod says, "She doesn't understand that he is the man of the house and has to pay the bills. She just thinks he doesn't care about the ring."

Shaulod charges 3 percent interest for four months (1 percent less than New York state law allows) plus a $5 ticket and taxes fee. He gives his customers a two-week grace period, sometimes more: "People call me and say, 'Gavriel, don't sell my things,' and it's been more than four months. I tell them to come pick up their stuff. I ask them how much time they need."

Arthur's Gold Market is 10 blocks away from the intersection of Park Avenue and 116th St., where a half-century ago filmmakers shot most of The Pawnbroker.

-With reporting by Christina Darnell, Kara Hackett, Abigail Maurer, Kira Clark, Sophia Lee, Samantha Gilman, J.C. Derrick, Kara Bettis, and Catherine Rogers.

For more about pawnshop benevolence and today's opportunities, see my column, "Mission field: Pawnbroking."

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