By Tim Krohn
---- — MANKATO — There are a lot more rings, cameras, pneumatic drills, firearms and Playstations at the newly opened Pawn America on Madison Avenue.
"It allows us to show a lot more stuff on the sales floor. We have a lot more room to show things better," said manager Tyler Ress.
The store, across the street and near their previous location, not only has much more showroom space but a larger storage area.
"We can take more things in now. People brought things in before and we just didn't have the space to take it all in," Ress said.
He said the store was designed for a mezzanine expansion in the future. "We built it with the intention of expanding without having to expand the building."
He said jewelry, consumer electronics, firearms and construction tools are the biggest sellers at the store.
The original store opened in Mankato in 2005.
While Pawn America and other pawn shops, jewelry and coin shops had a huge increase in gold being bought and sold, the peak appears to have passed.
The National Pawnbrokers Association reported recently that 85 percent of pawnbrokers surveyed cited a decrease in the number of gold-based loans and gold-buying transactions. People were selling old gold jewelry and coins at a record pace when the price hit historic highs during the recession, but prices have fallen 25 percent since the beginning of the year — but still top $1,200 an ounce.
Besides the opening of Pawn America, a new Panda Express restaurant also opened recently in front of Cub Foods on Madison Avenue.
The American Chinese food chain originally appeared mostly in malls, airports and theme parks but began opening stand-alone restaurants with drive-through windows in 2004. Panda Express has more than 1,600 restaurants in 42 states.
Soon to open in the area are a Hardee's, located next to McDonald's on Madison Avenue, and a Family Video and Marco's Pizza located along Victory Drive behind McDonald's.
Meanwhile, construction is moving fast on a strip mall and a standalone building in front of Crossroads Center, across Madison Avenue from the entrance of Walmart. The standalone building will be a Starbucks, which a few years ago closed a store near where the new one will be, as well as another Starbucks near MSU. Those closings were part of a corporate-wide business restructuring in which stores across the country were shuttered.