For Steve Champion, owner of American Gun & Pawn, there was no better place to open his business than downtown Brooksville, where his roots run deep and conservative values have been grounded for generations.
“It has always been my dream to own a gun and pawn shop,” Champion said.
After working for decades in retail management, he was eager for a change. So he and his business partner, Steve Mason, started looking at opportunities.
Five weeks ago, American Gun & Pawn, 1118 E. Jefferson St., opened next door to Coney Island Drive-Inn.
Champion’s family settled in Brooksville in the 1920s. While he spent time in south Florida building a career with retail giant, Target, his heart never really left Brooksville. He transferred back home when the new Target was completed on Aerial Way.
But a yearning to open his own business finally took hold and he and Mason looked for options in a town that held so many childhood memories. They stumbled a former donut shop on E. Jefferson St., which is just down the street from Champion’s childhood home.
“I used to walk to Coney Island,” he said.
His father and grandfather were born here. There is even a street named after them.
The location required ample time for updating the building and grounds to support Champion’s vision. They painted the exterior with bold American flag hues of red and blue trim and opened their doors on June 6.
Doubling as a gun dealer and pawn broker, American Gun & Pawn breaks a bit from the traditional style of either industry.
“We are trying to have an upscale shop,” Champion said.
Glass cases house firearms, from rifles to hand guns, ammunition, accessories and safety equipment.
American Gun & Pawn also carries electronics, specialty items, DVDs, televisions, game systems, jewelry, currency and coins. But the inventory is constantly changing, based on what Champion can dig up and what customers are willing to sell or pawn.
“The winner by far has been the guns,” Champion said. “They want to be prepared and they like the sport of shooting.”
Curiosity is certainly a driving factor for patrons to American Gun & Pawn as community members learn about it. Others come specifically to view the firearm inventory or pawn an item for a secured loan.
Champion’s wife, Shanda, and daughter, Kara, work the counter with Champion. In fact, all five children between them are involved in some capacity.
Shanda was raised around guns. Her father, she said, was in law enforcement. Supporting her husband’s shop was natural for her.
“He’s always wanted to do this,” she said.
Kara, 16, works for Target but spends as much time in the family business as she can, learning the fundamentals.
Champion’s vision was to bring a different spin on a traditional gun or pawn shop. He wanted his customers to feel comfortable walking into the shop, whether they come looking to purchase a gun, sell a gun or pawn an item.
He also wanted to provide superior customer service so customers can feel confident about the purchases they make.
“People are afraid to purchase items from a pawn shop because they think it might be stolen,” Champion explained. But realistically, items sold through pawn are probably the safest anywhere since pawn brokers, and gun dealers, are heavily regulated, he said.
He goes a step further for his customers, offering to search for unusual items at their request.
“Ammo has been tough to get so I’m going out of my way to get it,” Champion said.
It is too early to guess which part of the business will have the greatest impact on his passions, Champion said. He is an avid believer in gun ownership and has collected various firearms for most of his life. He is also a skilled collector of currency and coins. And he loves digging up unique items.
He recently acquired a supply of WWII patches.
“I really like finding cool stuff,” he said.
American Gun & Pawn is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at email@example.com.
Biz at a Glance
Name: American Gun & Pawn
Address: 1118 E. Jefferson St.; Brooksville, FL 34601
Phone: (352) 593-PAWN (7296)