GREAT FALLS — When you hear the term “essential business” during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are probably a few things that come to mind: grocery stores, pharmacies, and plenty more.
Governor Steve Bullock’s directive that went into effect on March 28 outlines 22 different categories of essential operations. One kind of business fits in at least three of those categories: pawn shops.
Capital Pawn general manager Lui Salina says they fill quite a few roles in the community. “We fit in as a financial institution, also a firearms dealer, and also we sell essential items like tools, laptops, etc.,” Salina said.
Like other businesses allowed to be open right now, Capital Pawn has made some adjustments to their store since mid-March to help - altered hours, a hand-sanitizing station at the front door, plexiglass at the counter, and markers on the ground to maintain social distancing.
The pandemic has affected a few specific areas of their business too. When the shutdowns first started, there was an uptick in customers getting loans on items, as people who dealt with furloughs and layoffs needed cash. But more recently, it’s been about sales according to Salina, “As the stimulus checks have hit, it's been a lot more busy on the sales side, people with a little extra money in their pocket, which is nice definitely.”
Firearm sales are up. Gold and silver? About the same as usual. When schools were shut down in March, electronics became a hot item. "Once the kids were out of school and whatnot, we sold a lot of tablets, laptops,” Salina said. “Parents trying to keep their kids busy and just kind of anything you can do indoors during the shutdown has gone pretty well.”
And as the weather gets nicer this spring, Salina expects outdoor items like bikes and golf clubs will be selling more than ever as people look to escape their homes. In any case, pawn shops are filling a lot of different roles right now, something they’ve done for a long time.
“A lot of people don't necessarily have access to a bank. And it's, we're the second-oldest profession in the world, you know, collateral loans. And if you don't have necessarily access to a bank account, you can always come in and we're going to try and loan you the most amount of money we can on your item” Salina said.
“A lot of people without paychecks right now and we understand that the community success is definitely tied to our success.”
Here is an excerpt of the governor's order pertaining to essential businesses:
Essential Businesses and Operations. For the purposes of this Directive, Essential Businesses and Operations means Health Care and Public Health Operations, Human Services Operations, Essential Governmental Functions, and Essential Infrastructure, and the following:
- a. Stores that sell groceries and medicine. Grocery stores, pharmacies, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries, medicine, including medication not requiring a medical prescription, and also that sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and Essential Businesses and Operations;
- b. Food and beverage production and agriculture. Food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock, fishing, baking, and other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production, and wholesale or retail distribution of animals and goods for consumption; licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and licensed cannabis cultivation centers; and businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals, including veterinary and animal health services, animal shelters, rescues, shelters, kennels, and adoption facilities; businesses that provide equipment, transportation, seed, feed, fertilizer, or other products or services critical to food and livestock production;
- c. Organizations that provide charitable and social services. Businesses and religious and secular nonprofit organizations, including food banks, when providing food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, individuals who need assistance as a result of this emergency, and people with disabilities;
- d. Media. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
- e. Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation. Gas stations and auto supply, auto repair, and related facilities and bicycle shops and related facilities;
- f. Financial and real estate services and institutions. Banks, consumer lenders, including but not limited, to pawnbrokers, accountants, consumer installment lenders and sales finance lenders, credit unions, appraisers, realtors or others providing real estate services, title companies, financial markets, trading and futures exchanges, affiliates of financial institutions, entities that issue bonds, related financial institutions, and institutions selling financial products;
- g. Hardware and supply stores. Hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material;
- h. Critical trades. Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations;
- i. Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services. Post offices and other businesses that provide shipping and delivery services, and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, goods or services to end users or through commercial channels;
- j. Educational institutions. Educational institutions—including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating remote learning, performing critical research, or performing other essential functions consistent with prior Directives on school closures and the continued provision of certain services, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This Directive is consistent with and does not amend or supersede the March 24, 2020 Directive closing non-residential public schools through April 10, 2020;
- k. Laundry services. Laundromats, dry cleaners, industrial laundry services, and laundry service providers;
- l. Restaurants for consumption off-premises. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for consumption off-premises, through such means as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through, curbside pick-up, and carry-out. Schools and other entities that typically provide food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Directive on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pickup and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site due to the virus’s propensity to physically impact surfaces and personal property. This exception is to be interpreted consistent with the restrictions on on-premises dining and beverage businesses, as well as the expanded options for delivery and take out, provided in the March 24, 2020 Directive, Section 2.;
- m. Supplies to work from home. Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home;
- n. Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations. Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations with the support or materials necessary to operate, including computers, audio and video electronics, household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware, paint, flat glass; electrical, plumbing and heating material; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products; food, food additives, ingredients and components; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; diagnostics, food and beverages, chemicals, soaps and detergent; and firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security;
- o. Transportation. Airlines, taxis, transportation network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, paratransit, and other private, public, and commercial transportation and logistics providers necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Directive;
- p. Home-based care and services. Home-based care for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness, including caregivers such as nannies who may travel to the child’s home to provide care, and other in-home services including meal delivery;
- q. Residential facilities and shelters. Residential facilities and shelters for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness;
- r. Professional services. Professional services, such as legal services, accounting services, insurance services, information technology services, real estate services (including appraisal and title services);
- s. Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries. Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, Health Care, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, forest products, mining, construction, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other Essential Businesses and Operations.
- t. Critical labor union functions. Labor union essential activities including the administration of health and welfare funds and personnel checking on the wellbeing and safety of members providing services in Essential Businesses and Operations – provided that these checks should be done by telephone or remotely where possible.
- u. Hotels and motels. Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services.
- v. Funeral services. Funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services.