Before all the cash-for-gold businesses, Internet-loan sites and celebrity appraisers, there were old-school pawn brokers like Attleboro Pawn Shop on Pleasant Street in downtown Attleboro.
With neon signs and bars in the windows, they usually weren’t much to look at and carried a reputation as desperate places among more genteel neighbors.
It was a desperate time for Arthur Frye in 1993 when he opened Attleboro Pawn in a corner storefront below some apartments after layoffs at Sears cost him his sales job.
But the humble pawnshop worked well enough for Frye to put three sons, who would pick up pieces of the trade over the years, through the University of Massachusetts studying accounting and sports marketing.
Although they had no intention of returning to the family business when they graduated, the Frye brothers – Cliff, Scott and Eric – wanted to be entrepreneurs. And after a credit card startup didn’t pan out, they were drawn back to the pawn trade.
“We saw an opportunity in this business with what my dad had done in a little shop,” said Eric Frye, the youngest brother. “He wasn’t tech savvy; didn’t know Amazon, eBay and Facebook. But in the past seven or eight years, we have seen more of middle-class America walk through the doors despite the pawnshop stigma. We saw an opportunity to make it something more.”
In 2003, with Eric still finishing his degree at the UMass, the Frye brothers founded Fastcash Pawn & Checkcashers on Newport Avenue in Pawtucket.
The idea was to build on the basics they had learned with their father in Attleboro, but expand the range of services and customer base into higher-end clientele.
After 10 years in the business, the Fryes are happy with their decision.
Last year they bought out their father, allowing him to retire and close the Attleboro store.
And in the next year they hope to expand to another, yet undetermined, location in the region.
“Definitely not your typical pawnshop,” is how the company described itself in a release celebrating its 10th anniversary, adding that they were “working to change the general public’s perception of the stereotypes from the movies.”