At California Loan & Jewelry, you can pawn almost everything — or try to. People will bring owner Warren Anapolsky genuine (and knockoff) Rolex wristwatches, tennis bracelets (some with real diamonds, some not), original paintings (or pretty good reproductions).
They’ve also brought him extremely rare books, valuable sculptures and even a prosthetic leg. But he says he draws the line at paying for VHS players and other rapidly aging devices. “I don’t like electronics in general,” he says — then allows, “Well, I do like some Apple products. They have good resale value. Some of them, anyway. Not all.”
By various names and locations, California Loan & Jewelry has been in downtown Sacramento for a remarkable 113 years. The Anapolsky name itself is ubiquitous in the capital — in fashion, law, academia and a variety of companies. “I have loads of cousins and we all seem to get along well,” says Anapolsky. At 73, he’s trim, has a flawless complexion and clear hazel eyes, wears running shoes with his dress slacks, and displays an infectious enjoyment of life, people and his trade. He says he has “zero plans to retire anytime soon.”
That’s good news for his customers, many of whom are third-generation loyalists, as well as his colleagues: He has an extensive network of authenticators, including experts in art, first-edition books and bling. He’s also an expert himself; for 47 years, he has held a Graduate Gemologist certification from the Gemological Institute of America — a designation generally considered to be the industry’s own gold standard.
With his easygoing repertoire of stories and insights, Anapolsky defies the stereotype most of us probably have of moneylenders — like the embittered, cynical one memorably portrayed by Rod Steiger in the heartbreaking 1964 movie “The Pawnbroker” — or those whom some of us have dealt with in real life, whose need to be constantly on guard for robbery (sometimes armed) or swindle (sometimes from inside) can render them professionally icy.
While nobody’s fool, Anapolsky has an instant warmth with people who come into his shop on a pretty battered block of J Street between Ninth and 10th. On recent visits, Anapolsky’s customers ranged from people who seemed down on their heels to a well-groomed millennial couple and a woman in designer clothes toting a Louis Vuitton bag. Anapolsky sells those purses at his place, which is a combo pawn shop and retail operation.
He tells the story of a pregnant young woman, toting another baby, who’d brought in art copies, including a lithograph by Alexander Calder. But in that first haul was also a wolf’s head by Faberge “with a chipped ear — I think I gave her $1,000 for it,” Anapolsky recalls — and, the real prize, an original painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir of a little girl by a lake.
“I know a guy, a Frenchman, who lives in Switzerland and lives in San Francisco three or four months of the year,” Anapolsky says. “He tells me it’s worth maybe $35,000. I ended up selling it to an oncology doctor for considerably more than that.” He recounts this with neither bravado nor an ounce of smugness. It was strictly business.
One of his other great finds — brought to him by the same young woman whose husband had inherited the treasures — was an original, illustrated manuscript by William Blake (1757-1827); a book of poetry, “Songs of Innocence,” inscribed to his doctor. This is the book that includes the beloved 1794 poem “The Tyger” (“Tyger Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”).
“There were only four copies of this original,” Anapolsky says he discovered from one of his rare-book mavens. “One’s in the Smithsonian, one’s at the Huntington Museum in San Marino, and I don’t recall where the third one is. But the real point is it was worth at least $125,000.”
Anapolsky and his brother Larry became owners of the (literally) mom-and-pop store in 1979, when their father passed away. Until her passing, their mom continued to keep her hand in the business — and in tribute to their folks, Warren kept a sign for each of them on the shop’s two bathroom doors: One says Bernice; the other Sol.
When Larry died of cancer in 2013, Warren became sole proprietor. He’s made some important changes: The store no longer buys cars (which used to be driven into the building’s massive basement for evaluating) or guns. “I just didn’t like having them around,” Anapolsky says. “And it’d make other customers nervous if they saw someone come in carrying a weapon, which you can understand.” He’s also added some serious security measures, especially since the 2018 demonstrations and vandalism on J Street following the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark.
“I was watching the whole thing unfold on my security videos,” he says. “Some of the marchers tried like crazy to smash the front window but this glass is awfully thick.” He’s since installed barriers to keep would-be thieves from getting into the store — and also, if necessary, to trap them in the entry way until the police show up.
“I really love what I do. I love the energy of downtown, and I feel it coming back after COVID.”Warren Anapolsky, Owner, California Loan & Jewelry
Recently remarried, Anapolsky has a grown daughter and stepdaughter but says any succession plan is “still being formulated in my head. I really love what I do. I love the energy of downtown, and I feel it coming back after COVID.” And, lest we forget, he has zero plans to retire.
THROUGH THE YEARS
-California Loan & Jewelry’s first name was the New York Store. It was founded in 1909 by twin brothers William and Joe Anapolsky and located at 1014 3rd Street.
-It didn’t become a pawn shop for a number of years. Instead, the shop sold “basic merchandise and popular items of the day,” according to the company’s history.
-In 1942, the store started making collateral loans. You’d bring in an item, the store gave you immediate money for it and eventually, you’d either buy back the item or the store would get to sell it.
-In 1947, the brothers died within six months of each other and William’s two sons, Sol and Milton, took over the business, changing its name to California Clothing & Jewelry. Two years later, the store moved to 409 K St. Not long thereafter, the current name was adopted.
-When Milton died very young in 1952, Sol and his wife and partner Bernice took over. The store changed locations several times: In 1959 it moved to 511 K Street and in just three years, to 607 J Street.
-Five years later, a fire destroyed a great deal of the store’s inventory, which inspired Sol to purchase his first building at 916 J Street.
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