The original Albert’s pawnshop was started by Albert Rothbart in 1927 as Albert’s Loan Office in Johnson City, Tennessee. Albert’s had two businesses 1) Making pawn loans and 2) New and used retail sales.
In the pawn loan business, customers could bring in their items of value and take out a short term loan. Albert’s would hold the item and the customer would come back and pick the item of value up or extend the loan by renewing it for an additional loan period by paying the interest and fees If the customer didn’t come back and pick the item of value up or extend the loan by renewing it for an additional loan period by paying the interest and fees, the loan would considered to be in default and the item of value would become the property of the pawnshop and be sold. Additionally, the pawnshop could buy an item of value directly from a customer and put it out for sale. Used items of value came to the pawnshop in these two manners.
On the retail side Albert’s sold new and used items. Albert Rothbart was the first dealer for new Martin Guitars, Gibson Guitars and Banjos in the region, as well as a host of other musical instruments from companies like Silvertone, Harmony, and even uncommon instruments like Kazoos, Jaw Harps and Harmonicas. In the days before Kmart and Walmart, Albert’s sold wrist and pocket watches, rings, bracelets, and pendants both solid gold and costume as well as inexpensive new luggage and novelty items like dice, decks of cards, pocket knives, and Zippo lighters too. Luggage customers would come to Albert’s before catching a train at the Johnson City Depot or a Greyhound at the bus station.
Trading was something that most retail stores didn’t do. Albert was a master of the art of trading. Retired soldiers from the VA loved to trade and so did Albert. I once saw him trade with two customers at once. The first customer wanted one of Albert’s pocket watches. Albert got the a wrist watch and $5.00 “boot” (additional cash to make the deal) from first the first customer his pocket watch. The second customer traded the first customer a wrist watch for the pocket watch he had just traded for with Albert. The second customer then traded Albert’s original pocket watch and $5.00 boot for the first customer’s wrist watch. Everyone was happy and Albert ended up with his original pocket watch and $10.00. That was my first lesson in the art of trading.