Rick Harrison of ‘Pawn Stars’ builds empire to outlast show’s popularity – Las Vegas Sun
August 27, 2015 By Michael Kamber
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“Pawn Stars” star Rick Harrison at the under-construction Pawn Plaza.

Long before he was the star of “Pawn Stars,” Rick Harrison made his living as proprietor of Gold & Silver Pawn.

Since opening in 1989 on Las Vegas Boulevard South, the pawn shop has shared a neighborhood with some famous Las Vegas figures. It still does, in fact.

Harrison remembers, about 15 years ago, taking a call from a neighbor, a local legend who owned a piece of land next to the pawn shop. The man was experiencing a serious case of mistaken identity.

“I answer, and the guy on the other end is just irate,” Harrison recalled during a walk-around of Palm Plaza, the new retail and entertainment enclave due to open Oct. 1 just south of Gold and Silver Pawn. “He’s saying, ‘F-this, and f-that, who the (heck) to you think you are!? What the (heck) do you think you’re doing!?’ He was just reaming me, and I had no idea who it was.”

So Harrison asked, “Who the (heck) is this!?” And the guy on the other end shouts, “I’m your effing boss! Bob Stupak!”

Harrison let out his familiar, raspy laugh and said, “I told him, ‘You’d better know who you’re calling! I don’t (effing) work for you! I’m your neighbor! Check the number before you start making calls!’ There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘I’m so sorry …’ ” The Stupak family still owns the property just south of Harrison’s parcel. On the land stands a pink bail-bond business.

Times have changed for Harrison and his fellow Pawn Stars — father Richard, son Corey and the honorary Harrison, Chumlee.

Harrison is finishing construction of Pawn Plaza, which cost a reported $2 million. It eventually will be home to 13 restaurants and retail outlets.

Harrison’s objective: build a mini-empire that will long outlive the popularity of “Pawn Stars.”

“Five or 10 years from now, people are going to be sitting around going, ‘Wasn’t there a show about four fat guys in a pawn shop?’” Harrison said. “And I am sitting on this really nice piece of property on Las Vegas Boulevard. Why not?”

Harrison will work as a bartender at one of Pawn Plaza’s anchor businesses, Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue & Tavern.

“Every guy wants a bar, right?” he asked.

Having completed alcohol awareness training and earned a TAM card to work as a professional bartender, Harrison plans to sling drinks Fridays and Saturdays on the top level of the tavern. But try not to ask for a blended drink or anything fancy.

“I’m new at this,” he said. “I can make a bourbon and Coke, those types of drinks … If the ingredients are named in the drink, I can make it.”

Harrison also plans to open a wedding chapel, in part to revive the flagging industry along Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Otherwise, the businesses planned for Pawn Plaza are as odd a fit as the plaza’s mismatched color scheme. All are independent businesses or small franchises, such as Rita’s Italian Ice, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Vegas Flip Flops, So-Cal Speed Shop, Inna Gadda di Pizza and Pawn Donut & Coffee. Harrison heard from scores of national chains that wanted to open at Pawn Plaza, hoping to capitalize on the free exposure “Pawn Stars” receives on the History channel. But Harrison turned them down.

“There were businesses that wanted to come in here that I didn’t want to come in,” Harrison said of the national sandwich-shop chains, banks and “multi-thousand-store pizza places.” “Literally, my rule is, you had to be cool if you’re going to come in here.”

With national chains, “people will drive right by,” Harrison added. “If you have all this weirdness coming together, it makes it cool.”

Pawn Plaza has to be cool, and it has to work in symmetry with Gold and Silver Pawn. Harrison said he had no plans to leave the pawn business.

As he stood on the second-level balcony of Pawn Plaza, he nodded toward the now-famous Gold & Silver sign facing Las Vegas Boulevard.

“It has been my bread and butter my entire adult life,” he said. “That store is me.”

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