PATRICK KEARNS IS the third generation of a modern-day banking dynasty.
He’s not the head of Ulster Bank or AIB, Bank of Ireland or the infamous Anglo; but the owner of Kearns pawnbrokers, one of Ireland’s alternative lending institutions.
Pawnbrokers can be recognised the world over from their sign – three spheres suspended from a bar.
Having taken over from his uncle in 1978 who had, in turn, taken over from his, Kearns, as a business, is still very much in business and – according to its latest owner – business is good.
Kearns remembers a time when almost anything would be pawned, including peoples’ Sunday best. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, he recalls when the suits worn to Sunday mass would be pawned the following day.
Having used the money to help keep food on the table until getting paid the following Friday, the suit would be bought back in time for mass, only for it all to happen again the following Monday.
That day is now gone, with nearly all his business now coming from jewellery.
For those who can’t get money from banks, Kearns believes that pawnbrokers provide an extra – and for many, last – option. “Where do you go to get €500 if the bank says no,” he says.
While his business sees a mix of new and repeat customers, the ratio between the two is starting to shift. “It’s increasingly new customers,” Kearns says. Although the numbers may be increasing, he hasn’t seen an increase in those who fail to get their items back, nor does he want to.
Items sold at auction don’t usually bring top value. It’s in the owners interest to take it back. We’d prefer people to take it back rather than have it go to auction.
And why would he? Legally regulated under the Pawnbrokers Act of 1964, should the pawner fail to either buy the item back or renew the initial four month contract, the item isn’t sold by the pawnbroker, but at public auction.
Any profit from this (the sale price minus the initial money the pawnbrokers paid, with interest) is given back to the pawner.
There are currently three pawnbrokers in Ireland, all of which are in Dublin: Kearns Pawnbrokers and Jewellers on Queen Street, Dublin 7; Carthy Jewellers and Pawnbrokers on Marlborough Street, Dublin 1 and John Brereton Pawnbrokers on Capel Street, Dublin 1.