Rick Harrison is looking for a new kind of clientele in his “Pawn Stars” empire, and you might find these folks riding a gondola on the Las Vegas Strip.
Harrison is opening his Rick’s Collection store in July at Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. He’s just signed the documents formalizing the deal.
However, he’s not exactly sure where in the retail fortress his store will be located.
“This is going to sound bad,” he says, laughing, during a phone chat. “I have so many people working for me. They found a space there, and the shop will be at The Venetian.”
What is certain is Rick’s Collection is Harrison’s first expansion on the Strip. The combo store and display space will showcase some of Harrison’s favorite items from the History series. The items will include ancient antiquities, rare rock ‘n’ roll and sports memorabilia, American heritage antiques, art and firearms.
The business was originally to be named Rick’s Picks, and positioned at Pawn Plaza next to Gold & Silver Pawn. But Harrison says that selling items back to those who were already visiting Gold & Silver was not the ideal way to grow his fan base.
“We’ll have a whole new audience at The Venetian,” he says. “Those tourists might have never even seen the store.”
Harrison said negotiations for the 16th season of “Pawn Stars” have begun and that he expects the show to be renewed.
“Our ratings are actually higher than they have been in the past few seasons, which is unheard of on cable these days,” says Harrison, adding that the show’s new one-hour format has been a hit with fans.
In July, the show celebrates its 10th year on History.
“I’m still amazed,” Harrison says. “People come from all over the world to be on the show, and it still works because of all the interesting items coming in.”
Harrison also reflected on the early years of the business. Years before “Pawn Stars” and when Harrison was pitching Gold & Silver Pawn for a possible cable series, he ran a payday loans operation from the family business.
It didn’t take long for him to, um, lose interest. Tired of chasing money from those who could not afford to pay, he shut down the side business after about six months.
“I just felt guilty about it,” he says today. He once defended the business practices of a pawn shop, with its comparatively low service charges.
“The average loan is $50, and most pawn shops charge between like $2 and $5 service charge, and they average right around 10 percent a month,” he once said on an episode of NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview show. “So if you get a $50 loan, it’s going to cost you $7.50 for the first month and $5 a month after that. It’s a lot less money than if you go to one of these payday loan places.”
As “Pawn Stars” became a hit on History, a national payday loan business offered Harrison an eye-popping offer to serve as the company spokesman.
“The offer was $1 million,” Harrison says. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is A LOT of money.’ It was enough to get my attention, but I just couldn’t do it. I was thinking, ‘I just turned down a million dollars.’ ”
Harrison chuckled again and said, “I was getting a divorce at the time — believe me, I could have used a seven-figure check. But I honestly could not live with that. I couldn’t be advising people about how to be responsible about their money while endorsing that kind of business.
“But, you know, we have a business and a TV show that is successful. In the long run, I’m better off.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.