Detroit News: Rubin–Detroit’s most unlikely tourist attraction

By November 23, 2015In the News

Fly in from Australia. See the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building and “Phantom of the Opera.”

Next stop: a pawn shop in Detroit.

Micah and Hannah Chiang, a veterinarian and chemical engineering teacher from Perth, had one destination on their itinerary when they veered off to Michigan to visit family — American Jewelry & Loan, at the scenic intersection of Greenfield Road and the Lodge.

Frankenmuth, Mackinac Island, The Henry Ford … and an oversized pawn shop in a former bowling alley near a motel whose online reviews discuss roaches and bedbugs. You won’t see American Jewelry in a Pure Detroit commercial, but maybe you should.

For 162 episodes on truTV, the shop has been the setting for a reality show called “Hardcore Pawn,” in which store founder Les Gold and his two kids make deals with customers, bicker with one another, and occasionally have a bouncer the size of an armored truck escort an unhappy patron to the parking lot.

Come to find out the show is all the rage in Australia, where Hannah Chiang said Thursday that she likes to “see the drama.”

And Italy, where Seth Gold brought 1,000 promotional trinkets to an appearance in Milan and ran out.

And Spain, where according to a Google alert that recently flashed across Les’ screen, “Hardcore Pawn” had climbed to No. 1.

And even South Africa, where Les’ wife turned on the television in their Johannesburg hotel room early last week and heard her husband’s voice.

“I thought you were talking to me,” she told him. Come to find out, he’s practically been talking to the United Nations.

The show’s ninth season ended in April with an episode filmed in March. The Golds don’t know whether they’re being renewed and might not care to be. Speaking cagily, like the professional negotiator he is, Les said only that “people have approached us about other things.”

But reruns live forever and air endlessly, sometimes for hours at a time, and tourists come looking for T-shirts, autographs and maybe a bargain on a diamond ring.

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