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'Gentleman' pawnbroker promises honesty, integrity

by Duncan Adams Daily Inter Lake
| July 28, 2019 2:00 AM

Jack Jones wore a sweat-stained Stetson. A red bandanna ringed his neck. His drawl betrayed West Texas roots.

His handshake compressed tendons and bones.

Jones, 82, has been a rancher. He’s bought and sold land in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and elsewhere. He’s mined for gold near Clancy. He’s flown a Beechcraft Bonanza to the Yukon and back.

He says that all his exes live in Texas. There are two.

Not long ago, health problems hindering Jones’ breathing and ability to work his mine led him to launch a new endeavor.

Sawbuck Pawn & Loan opened May 1 on U.S. 2 in Evergreen.

“It gave me something to do to get me out of my La-Z-Boy,” Jones said.

Jones said he had met Mike Ovik when Ovik worked at regional pawnshops, including First National Pawn in Columbia Falls. He said when Ovik agreed to manage Sawbuck Pawn & Loan he felt comfortable tackling a new venture.

“Mike’s got a lot of experience and high integrity,” Jones said.

And Jones said integrity matters.

He said his father, Sam Jones, was a hard-working rancher near San Angelo, Texas, who was known for honesty and courtesy.

In years past, pawnshops and honesty were rarely mentioned in the same sentence. As Ovik said, they were often considered to operate as fences for petty thieves.

He said the Flathead Valley, like the nation, has a serious drug problem.

“Those people are going to come in and try to pawn,” Ovik said. “They’re pretty easy to recognize. They’re fidgety, nervous. They come just before you’re closing.”

Ovik said that pawnshops have nothing to gain by acquiring stolen goods. Among other things, the business can end up struggling to obtain reimbursement for seized property through restitution from a convicted thief, he said.

Sawbuck Pawn’s current inventory, just a few months after opening, is a bit thin.

Jones said he is confident that will change “when people learn we do what our logo says, ‘generous loans on quality goods.’”

Pawnshops typically provide short-term, collateral-based loans to customers. It works like this: A customer brings in an item they own. If the pawnboker is interested, he or she will offer a loan. The pawnbroker keeps the item until the customer repays the loan. If the customer fails to repay, the merchandise becomes the pawnshop’s to sell.

Pawnshops also occasionally buy items outright but “pawnbrokers are less enthusiastic about these transactions because loans offer much more profit potential for the pawnbroker,” according to Bankrate.com.

The National Pawnbrokers Association reports that there are 15 federal statutes and regulations applicable to pawn transactions.

According to the association, “Pawn customers represent the working families of America who periodically experience an unexpected need for short-term funds.”

Jones said he’s known plenty of hard times in his life. He said he’s never sought a pawnshop loan but has been a buyer.

“People come in here, they need to borrow a hundred dollars,” he said. “They need to make a credit card payment to avoid a late fee. They need to buy gas. To me, it’s a privilege if I can help them who just need a little help like that.”

Sawbuck’s inventory on a recent Thursday included, among many other items: five pairs of skis; two snowboards; two sets of golf clubs; two motorcycles; two kayaks; two saddles; a snowblower; float tubes for anglers; and, various power tools.

Jones moved to Montana from Colorado in either 2008 or 2009; he said he can’t remember for sure which. He lived briefly in Polson before moving to Kalispell.

Two sons live in Texas.

Jones said the length of Montana winters is beginning to wear. But he said he doesn’t miss the Texas summers, a season when he said it’s so hot “you can shake hands with the devil.”

Jones said the building Sawbuck Pawn leases on U.S. 2 was once a car dealership. His sign out front was repurposed from a former saloon and casino.

According to the National Pawnbrokers Association, “Today’s pawn stores are attractive, welcoming places to do business.”

Jones said that’s the sort of operation he intends to run.

“The best thing I learned from my father was how to be a gentleman,” he said.

Sawbuck Pawn & Loan is located at 1192 U.S.2 E. in Evergreen. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; call 406-407-1736.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.