Fifth pawn shop coming to North Avenue despite neighbors, alderman's protests

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Ellyn Fortino

Despite opposition from one Chicago alderman and residents from both Galewood and Oak Park, a new pawn shop — the fifth one in the area — will soon open up on North Avenue near Narragansett Avenue.

Chicago's Zoning Board of Appeals on Jan. 18 voted 3-1 to approve plans for an EZ Pawn store just west of Narragansett Avenue. Opposition to the store had mounted prior to that meeting. The public, however, learned of the zoning board's decision last Wednesday when offices reopened after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The store is set to be the fifth pawn shop clustered along North Avenue between Ridgeland and Hayes Avenues.

EZ Pawn, a national retailer, has come under fire from Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th), whose ward would house the store.

"I'm very, very disappointed," Sposato said after hearing the news about the zoning board's decision.

The alderman said he plans to appeal the board's decision and is looking into legal counsel.

Objectors have 35 days after the board issues a resolution — which can take up to 60 days — to file an appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court, according to the Zoning Board of Appeals' office.

The decision came as a shock to Sposato, especially after a city planning and urban development committee sided with the alderman and about 30 residents of his ward at a special hearing that also took place on Jan. 18.

The committee said it would not recommend a permit for another pawn shop in that section of North Avenue, but that the final decision was up to the zoning board.

Sposato says the community doesn't need another pawn shop, which many Galewood residents agreed. Residents were also upset with Ald. Deborah Graham for supposedly backing EZ Pawn's plans to set up shop. The store is located within Sposato's 36th Ward, but by 2015 will be located within Graham's 29th Ward after the city's wards are redrawn.

According to Sposato and residents, Graham submitted a letter of approval to the city for EZ Pawn, causing some neighbors to accuse her of going behind their backs.

Graham refuted that charge last week and insisted she never wrote a letter of support for another pawn shop in the area.

Graham said she did not go behind the community's back, as she has discussed this issue with Sposato and residents who have contacted her about the proposed store. Graham stressed that she's been trying not to "butt heads" with Sposato.

She said EZ Pawn came to her, and she also initially said no. Graham says she thought it was a done issue, but then Austin Bank of Chicago approached her and said the strip mall where the bank is located, 6400 W. North Ave., needed an anchor store, which has been vacant for years.

According to Graham, the bank told her it would be hard for a small business to fill the large space or to pay for remodeling, and that EZ Pawn, which was in communication with the bank, could be appropriate for the site.

The letter she sent to the city was not in support of another pawn shop in the area, Graham said.

"It was for the bank. The bank asked me to support (EZ Pawn) for an anchor," she said, adding that it was a tough business decision.

But the publicly-traded EZCorp, which owns the EZ Pawn stores, has the means to fight to get the site regardless of what she or other aldermen say, Graham explained.

"They have the wherewithal to make a case," she said. "I said to Sposato, 'Our best defense is to go for a moratorium, that no more (pawn shops) be put in the area.'"

Graham said she is seriously considering putting forth a moratorium on any new pawn shops in the 29th Ward going forward.

EZ Pawn has some additional plans for the location, but Graham said she couldn't comment on the details until the company makes the announcement at a community meeting in the coming weeks.

Reader Comments

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Aminah Mccloud from chicago  

Posted: February 9th, 2013 7:52 PM

let us move to change the zoning ordinance and get a call back on the election of this non-alderwoman.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 8th, 2013 4:33 PM

Ms. Graham is being quite disingenuous. She is not helpless here. The Chicago City Council and Zoning Board of Appeals generally defer to the wishes of the alderman in cases like this. EZPAWN was recently turned down for permission to open a South Side location due to strong community opposition. Also, Ms. Graham wrote a letter in support of EZPAWN (not ABC Bank) on July 26, 2013, without consulting the community. Email if you'd like a copy of the letter.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 6:38 PM

I'd like to make the suggestion that anyone emailing Graham or the bank on this matter cc Sposato on it so that the number of complaints will be recognised by the wider community. It does little good sending complaints to the people you are complaining about, only for it to fall on deaf ears. I'd also recommend twitter, as it receives a wide audience. These types of decisions is what allows places like Austin to change from bad to worse.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 6:33 PM

Thank you Judith, both Graham and the Bank will be contacted by me. I hope others will be speaking out too.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 6:03 PM

If you're unhappy about EZPAWN, please let Ms. Graham know in person. She's holding a community meeting on the issue at 6:30 PM, February 19, at the Community Church, 1776 N. Narragansett in Chicago. If you can't make it, at least call her office - 773.261.4646. Or write - Also let ABC Bank know. Sam Scott, Chairman. 312.604.1100. Colette Loesher, President. 773.854.2900. cloesher@abcbank.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 10:18 AM

Good call, muntz. We can only imagine some of the "talent" that will enter the store. If it's anything like the Detroit show, which I suspect it may be, I hope they have a few extra large "security" boyz to handle the rougher customers.


Posted: February 6th, 2013 9:27 AM

Golden opportunity here..."North Ave Pawn Stars". Watch as shop owners and pawners haggle over the price of copper downspouts, toolboxes, mountain bikes, and iPhones.


Posted: February 6th, 2013 9:20 AM

Brendan- Deborah Graham has already won. She has a "D" next to her name on the ballot. The drones will vote accordingly. Nothing will change.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 8:14 AM

Brendan, thank you for adding information to this already highly suspect situation. The plot thickens. Something needs to be done about this, and I hope this comes back to bite Graham in a big way.


Posted: February 6th, 2013 5:50 AM

I forgot to mention that Victor Reyes is also the attorney for EZ Pawn, the pawn shop. Does anyone else see the white elephant in the room?


Posted: February 6th, 2013 5:46 AM

Victor Reyes is a lobbyist for the Pay Day Loan Industry, which is what EZ Pawn is. Reyes and Deborah Graham worked closely together in the Daley administration. Deborah Graham is on the Ethics Committee. Deborah Graham is also planning to run for Congressman Danny Davis' seat. She will need the money that the Pay Day Loan Industry offers for her campaign. This whole situation smells. Where's the outrage? Where's the investigative reporting?

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 1:27 AM

What's the big deal? Guess where all the stolen merch from Oak Park, Chicago and River Forest end up? More pawn shops mean more opportunity for the many thieves, robberies and home invaders around here to unload their goods. It creates more incentive to steal and commit violent crime. There have been studies on how a concentration of pawn shops negatively affect an area. THAT's the big deal.

Hovering over OP  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 12:55 AM

I got a really nice guitar at an EZ Pawn... what's the big deal? Times are tough and pawn shops fill a need.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 5th, 2013 11:47 PM

So I suppose Ald. Deborah Graham also OKed all the liquor stores in Austin, cause you know, Austin needs "businesses", "anchors" in strip malls, "tough business decisions". Ald. Deborah Graham decisions will only increase the amount of crime in these communities, and she know it! She should be ashamed she herself for not fighting this, and any other "business decisions" that add to the blight or these communities. She's allowing North Ave to turn into a ghetto.

Disgusted in OP  

Posted: February 5th, 2013 11:39 PM

Glad to see Ald. Deborah Graham rolling over for the Austin Bank of Chicago and EZ Pawn. No wonder Austin is in such a mess. That's exactly what we need, aldermans that care more about a quick buck at the expense of a community. So Graham is fine with adding a fifth pawn shop to North Ave. but is "thinking" of stopping more from coming in? Pathetic! I wonder how she sleeps at night knowing she's created more opportunity for criminals, and is tearing a community apart.

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