You don’t need to be perfect to get it right, though there’s something to be said for exercising common sense. To wit, one Martell Holliday, who works at a Twin Cities pawn shop where he’s been for the last seven years.
And where he’s been fired three times.
Not many people can say that. The secret to his “success”? He’s not a flawless individual by any means, but he has managed to finally get it right — despite himself.
Holiday is 24, and you have to expect the young to do dumb things. For example, the first time he got let go “It was silly,” he admits. “I was caught up in some legal stuff.”
More specifically, he wound up on the wrong side of a jail cell. Nothing earthshaking, but it took him out of circulation for a minute.
“I was in my car with somebody. And they had a gun. I received a 72-hour [probable cause] hold for that. Gone for three days. That was, you know, no call-no show.”
It didn’t dawn on him to, when they give you your phone call at the police station, have somebody at home tell the boss you’re unavoidably detained from fulfilling your appointed duties. “I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. That was my first time ever going to jail. I was up in there scared.”
On being released and explaining himself, he got his job back. Then, later, like a cat ticking off his nine lives, Holliday went back to jail and lost the job again. Twice. “It’s just being in the wrong places at the wrong times.”
Holiday imaginatively figures that by now he’s learned the value of taking that extra step to stay on the right side of the law. Mightn’t hurt to knock on wood.
Meeting Martel Holliday, it’s not hard to understand how his employer showed such patience. He’s personable, handsome, with a smile bright enough to charm the wet off water. And there’s an intangible quality that moves experienced fellows to view him in a positive light.
Corey, a co-worker, says, “Martell’s a good young brother. Takin’ care of his kids. And work, doin’ things you s’posed to do. Your arm don’t get long pattin’ yourself on the back. He’s real humble. Flies low on the radar. You gotta respect that. He got his head screwed on.”
Holliday started at the shop with a crash course in stock work, filing DVDs for two weeks, and then began learning the ropes. “When you come here, you have to get right into it. I picked up as I watched everybody else doing what they did.”
Now he does pretty much everything that needs being done, though it’s doubtful the boss will dispatch him with runs to make cash deposits at the bank. “I write pawns. Price items people bring in. Assess gold jewelry. Sometimes I can be wrong, so I’ll still double-check and ask somebody.”
Asked what he likes about the job, he breaks into a broad grin. “Everything. You ever see Hardcore Pawn?” he asks, laughing. “It’s just like that. The environment, the people. Knowing I can help somebody that’s down, people who really need [money].”
There’s a downside. “If I can’t help you and you just cuss me out, I’m like, ‘Wow, I didn’t come to work [for this].’” Some folk who come in the door don’t know how to take “Sorry, we can’t help you” for an answer and have to be shown back out.
There’s no security staff, but Holliday has no problem calling Isaac from the back of the store. Isaac is the martial arts-trained manager who happens to pack a licensed pistol and, in fact, seems to welcome opportunities to disabuse knuckleheads of the idea they can act out.
Holliday says of contending with the recession (chuckling so hard he can barely get the words out), “I been broke, so I don’t think I’m affected by it. Never had money in the first place.”
He stops laughing long enough to add that he keeps his costs down. “I live with a roommate, a friend I’ve known since grade school. [We] split the rent, electricity and so on. Most of my money goes to my daughters.”
On top of paying his ex-girlfriend child support for their three children, he chips in on incidental expenses. He may not have been the brightest bulb on the tree when it came to staying out of handcuffs, but one thing you can’t accuse him of is being a deadbeat dad.
“I have no problem with not having money as long as I know it’s going to my kids.” When backed against a financial wall, he now and then borrows from his mom or co-workers. “They know they’ll see it again, that I’ll pay them back.”
Much as he enjoys the job and says, “These guys are like my second family,” Holiday mulls options for down the road. He’s thinking of owning his own pawn shop, but is looking before he leaps.
“I’ve been thinking about college. My mom works at the University of Minnesota, so tuition is free. School, though, ain’t for everybody. I look [on the Internet] at people who went to school for business management. Then, when they graduate, that’s not what they do. I don’t want to wind up like that. I want to make sure that what I wind up doing is what I want to do.”
Still, he notes, “I ain’t getting no younger. So I have to make that choice.” Meanwhile, he responsibly maintains.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.