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BEST PAWNSHOP Minneapolis 2003 - Best Pawn

There's no getting around it: The pawn industry thrives on misfortune. Behind nearly every item at your local hock shop is an unspoken tale of desperation, which makes browsing the wares a somewhat ghoulish enterprise. The folks at Best Pawn, though, have managed to put a kinder face on the whole tawdry affair. Tucked into a handsome building on West Seventh, this former print shop and pool hall offers a wide array of pre-owned goods and more than a few surprises. Amid the usual complement of TVs and power tools, we found a BMW motorcycle, an Arctic Cat snowmobile, and some puzzling nautical gear dating to the 1890s. Best Pawn also touts itself as St. Paul's exclusive dealer of Meade telescopes, which co-owner Chris Skoog assured us are top-of-the-line. What really sets Best Pawn apart? It's a strictly local outfit, for one thing. Ask to talk to the boss and you won't be issued a phone number to the home office in Dallas. "We're owner-operated and very in tune with our customers," Skoog explains. "We go out of our way to help people." Indeed, on our last visit, after a bit of haggling, a car stereo netted $40--to the apparent satisfaction of all concerned. Perhaps best of all, the neighborhood boasts a neat synergy of commerce: There's a bar across the street and a head shop adjacent.

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