Earl West has accumulated 25 years of experience in the pawn shop business, including roughly 20 years at Dover Jewelry & Pawn Exchange.
But West began to think about starting his own shop a couple of years ago.
"I spent a long time there so I was kind of entrenched," West said of his former shop.
Ultimately, West decided to finally venture out on his own because he and his girlfriend, Cat, were expecting a baby boy.
"We're looking at a due date of about two weeks away," said the Felton man. "That was a big factor in wanting to get out on my own after 20 years of working for somebody else."
After researching real estate locations throughout the state, West, a Camden native and Caesar Rodney High School graduate, found the perfect fit at Dover Commons just outside of the Dover Mall.
After an amicable parting with Dover Jewelry & Pawn, West opened the Diamond Jewelry Exchange just off U.S. Route 13 one month ago. He decided to focus for the most part on jewelry, which he had learned much about during his years in the pawn industry, because that was where most of the money was. But, he will offer some antiques, fine art and other collectibles, West said.
West also wanted to get away from the stigma still associated with pawn shops despite the exposure they have received in recent years with such shows as "Pawn Stars" on the History Channel.
"I want the atmosphere to be a little different here – no bars on the windows – because I'm dealing with a lot of people who never had a reason ever to go to a pawn shop before," West said. "They might have gone in there to shop but they never needed money. I don't want somebody to sit in the parking lot and think 'is this a place I want to go into?' I want it to look like a nice jewelry store."
As such, West just had new window signs installed in his shop last week and that seemed to help business pick up as of late.
"I've been doing business in this town for 20 years," West said. "Word is getting out a little bit. This is a good location visible from the highway and near the mall."
When buying or pawning, West said there was always a value in the precious metals and stones that jewelry was made from. He would work with that rather than the retail value, which traditionally had a very high markup, in order to be fair with customers.
West said his favorite part about the pawn business was in dealing with people from all walks of life.
Page 2 of 2 - "I enjoy talking to people," he said. "I love my customers. There are people that I'm still friends with on Facebook and the only acquaintance we've had is through doing business. Through the years, you get to know them really well."
MORE ABOUT DIAMOND JEWELRY EXCHANGE
WHERE Dover Commons, 1241 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover
WHEN 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
CONTACT (302) 730-4900