Fans of the US and UK formats of Pawn Stars will be glad to know that a bona fide local version will be hitting South African screens. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with Roy Peretz, the owner of Cash Inn in Jozi, to find out what passes through his doors, why “Sushi King”, Kenny Kunene, dropped by and how a slap to the face is sometimes all in a day’s work in the world of haggling.
SOUTH Africa has become a hotbed for many international formats across genres. From Come Dine With Me to Dragon’s Den to MasterChef and The X Factor, viewers have revelled in it all.
And that doesn’t encompass the full gamut of the shows we have cloned with a truly all-embracing South African flavour.
Now the appetite is whetted once more with History Channel introducing Pawn Stars SA.
Following the success of the US version – now in its eighth run with the Harrisons becoming overnight stars along with Austin “Chumlee” Russell, the UK spin-off debuted last year.
In the home-grown version, which is shot on location at Cash Inn on Jan Smuts Avenue in Joburg, owner Roy Peretz is the central character.
While a charismatic and jovial person, his business savvy isn’t to be underestimated. Despite his hands-on approach, he isn’t autocratic in how he asserts himself. And gauging from his interaction with business partners Eytan Nadler, Liel Rimon as well as assistants Solly Mabasa and Irene Bower, the camaraderie and respect among the team is mutual.
Not to mention the incorrigibly infectious jesting.
Seated in his recently refurbished office, I felt like Big Brother looking at the screen monitors covering different angles of his store. Of course, in this line of business, such security measures are vital.
On how he found his feet in the pawn industry, Peretz says: “I got into it in the late ’90s. I opened a company in Louis Botha Avenue.”
Although he branched out of the company in 2009, it wasn’t before realising he’d found his niche.
He continues: “I made it and I said to myself: ‘This is going to be the crown jewel of pawn shops’. And, voila! it is.”
With 15 years in the industry, his experience is complemented by Nadler and Rimon’s combined wealth of expertise on myriad subjects.
Humbly describing himself as an “Okay businessman”, he offers: “I love people and doing business and, more than that, I love history. I read so many books… you don’t understand. I just love reading. Combine history, which is so fascinating, and doing business, which is amazing, and that explains why I’m doing this. When you see the shop just now, you will understand. We buy beautiful stuff. Sometimes it’s more than just the money.”
Peretz goes to great pains to point out how important customer satisfaction is to them and how it always trumps making a quick buck.
He proudly states: “You will not see one client coming out of here unhappy. I try to help everyone. I won’t do business at any other price.”
Talking about his partners, he notes: “We have been together since 1994 – he (pointing to Nadler) says 1993. In those 21 years, he always opened the store. In fact, he was only late twice. Liel joined me 14 years ago. He is amazing. And he knows his stuff. I gave Eytan and Liel partnership in 2003.”
Call it a twist of irony, but Peretz, who has yearned for his own show since first watching the original series, couldn’t believe his luck when Rapid Blue announced their interest in doing a local series at his store.
He recalls: “They called a few times and I answered nicely. When they (Johan and Michael) came through, I didn’t believe Johan. You know how they dress (laughs). From what I understood, they couldn’t find anyone who represented the History Channel as well as we do. Really, I’m not blowing my own horn here. I know the industry and it has not-so-great people.”
The shoot took three months, with long stretches and retakes, but Peretz says, animatedly: “It was amazing.”
In fact, the entire team gave 100 percent during the shoot – even when it meant they had to close shop for an outdoor shoot.
In the series, viewers will also get to see the quirky personalities of the team, from Nadler, who is nicknamed “ET” because of his extra-terrestrial interests, his playfulness and knack for storytelling, to Rimon ,who has an encyclopaedic general knowledge, to a happy-go-lucky Mabasa who reveals his familiarity with vehicles, and then a super-efficient Bower, whose specialty is in the jewellery department.
Recalling some of the standout moments from the series, Peretz reveals: “A guy called me and said he had a US Congressional Medal. It’s amazing, if you like history. It is the highest accolade an American soldier can get. It was from Richard Nixon.”
Amid some truly tear-jerking stories, there’s lots of drama among the team. From Nadler trying to convince the team that vegetarianism is king and his other hilarious tangents – not forgetting his heated row about being the only one bringing real money into the business – and Peretz overhearing Bower’s telephone conversation and wrongly assuming it’s her birthday. While he sets about planning a spontaneous party – Mabasa tries to set him straight, unsuccessfully.
Without letting the cat out of the bag, Peretz shares: “I bought a lot of jewellery on the show. And I sold to Kenny Kunene.”
Aside from some fascinating historical and cultural artefacts, like a handcrafted chess set from Robben Island to a pair of Anglo-Boer War binoculars, he laughs: “And I got smacked on TV too.”
“The South African show is so funny. You are going to laugh, proper. And people can relate to us because we are here. They (Rapid Blue) didn’t direct us. There are no stories like prices being fixed before. Everything is spontaneous.”
And that’s Peretz’s uncut take on his TV debut – one he is wildly excited about, as is the team.
• Pawn Stars SA airs on History Channel (DStv channel 186) with double bill episodes from tomorrow night at 8.30pm.