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NEW YORK TIMES - The Deadbeat Odyssey; Down and Out in Beverly Hills

NEW YORK TIMES - The Deadbeat Odyssey; Down and Out in Beverly Hills
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via the New York Times

By Alex Witchel
Published: August 20, 2000

Whenever something bad happened, my great-grandmother’s philosophy was that things could be worse. ”If you walked into a room and saw everyone else’s troubles up on the wall,” she would say, ”you would still go straight to your own.”

She obviously never knew about the Beverly Loan Company, where other people’s troubles not only hang on the wall, signed by artists like Chagall, Hockney and Miro, but also come in the guise of Rolex watches, gold cigarette cases and diamond necklaces.

Beverly Loan, says its co-owner Jean Zimmelman, is the oldest pawnshop in Beverly Hills, founded by her father, Louis, in 1938. And in a town where fortunes are made and lost in a film’s opening weekend, the trophies of yesterday can easily become the mortgage of tomorrow.

”Every woman should have diamonds, and every man should have a good watch,” Zimmelman said with authority. ”An Armani suit does nothing for you. With jewelry the value remains, unlike an old jacket. Big shots out here make a movie and whistle right through the money. They buy jewelry because that image is always important. Then, when they’re waiting for their next picture, they come here. We have a huge repeat business.”

Beverly Loan also has a healthy sales business, offering shoppers in the know some incredible buys on some incredible jewelry. (It is Beverly Hills, after all.) Zimmelman showed me a pair of gold Cartier earrings encrusted with diamonds and rubies with a matching ring. ”These pieces sell for $20,000,” she said, offering me a loupe to verify their authenticity. ”Here, they cost $6,000.”

Needless to say, this is no street-corner operation with bars on the windows and three balls hanging over the door. The company is located in the Bank of America building, where many of the items are stored in the vault during the period in which they are ”in loan.” Its offices are on the third floor, where there are two locked entrances, video monitors and an armed guard, not to mention a black Labrador retriever named Elvis. He seems pretty mellow, though. Zimmelman; her sister and partner, Helaine; and Helaine’s daughter Stephanie Blatt sometimes decorate him. (Once, when a group of rappers came in, Elvis wore gold chains in their honor.) The jewelry cases are filled with diamonds, watches and ropes of pearls, and there is even a case for items priced at $100 or less — stocked mostly with gold wedding bands.

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