By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
HERMISTON After 16 years, Randy's Trading Company is quitting business.
All because of a letter that owner Randy Harris received from the State of Oregon's Finance and Corporate Securities Division.
The letter asked if Harris was running an unlicensed pawn shop, and if so, what were his plans to make his business a licensed shop.
"We are one of about 200 other places in Oregon," Harris said. "If we were to be licensed, that would be a reduction in revenue."
Rather than lose money, Harris is choosing to close his doors in February after 16 years in business in Hermiston.
"We appreciate the support of the people of Hermiston," Harris said.
According to David Tatman, the administrator for Finance and Corporate Securities, the department believes there are approximately 200 to 300 unlicensed pawn shops in Oregon.
Last month, 75 letters were sent out to businesses like Randy's Trading Post, just letting the business owners know that if they were unlicensed, it probably was a good idea to become licensed.
To be a licensed pawn broker, a business owner must be bonded for $25,000 and pay a one-time application fee of $500 for a background check and evaluation. The yearly license fee is $350.
"As a pawn broker, you are capped by how much you can charge for interest," Tatman said. "In Oregon, that's 36 percent per annum."
The program is trying to ensure consumers who get in a financial pickle aren't being taken advantage of by outrageous interest rates. Although Harris would not reveal how much he charges to loan money on person items, some title loan companies charge more than 300 percent per year to borrow money on a car title.
That's a lot of money to pay back when all a person needed was $200 to fix their car or pay their electric bill.
The Finance and Corporate Securities Division is working with credit unions to help consumers stay away from costly debt. Credit unions will allow small loans to be repaid over short periods of time, Tatman says.
"We would like to see people use credit unions more," he said.
In the meantime, Randy's Trading Company is not accepting personal items for loans. Harris also owns Ace Jewelry and Loan on Entiat in Kennewick, Wash.