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Cash Conflict in 26th Ward

Modern pawnbroker storefront.
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Supporters of the Rumble Arts Center and representatives of Cash America gathered at the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse on Tuesday to discuss the possible opening of a Cash America store in the neighborhood.

Cash America, headquartered in Texas, is one of the largest pawnshop chains in the country. They have  plans to open a new location in Humboldt Park at 3201 W. North Ave. A large crowd of residents who oppose the opening attended the Town Hall meeting in hopes of convincing the company before the Cash America zoning hearing on Friday.

“At the end of the day,” said 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado, “I’m going to be siding with the community.”

The Rumble Arts Center is a non-profit organization at 3413 W. North Ave. It provides donation-based classes in the arts to all ages and makes art education accessible to everyone. It was established to bring the community together through the creative arts.

The opening of a Cash America store poses a threat to Aaron’s Jewelry and Pawn Shop, a family-owned business that provides significant financial support to Rumble Arts. According to residents, if Aaron’s pawnshop suffers losses because of Cash America, it will not be able to contribute to Rumble Arts, forcing the center to cut programs and eventually close.

Drew Wilson, 23, a volunteer at the center, said Rumble Arts brings many things to the community that cannot be found anywhere else.

“It offers a sort of cultural exchange that is hard to find in the community,” Wilson said.

Paul Rosenfeld, a Cash America representative, and Bud Anderson, operations director, showed a presentation at the meeting, outlining the positive effects a Cash America store would bring to the neighborhood.

He said Cash America not only provides jobs, but also gives to the community, assists in law enforcement and pays sales and property taxes.

Rosenfeld added many times that they were not a cash for gold store or a pawnshop.

“We are a financial institution who lends out small loans and provides financial support to under-banked and cash-based consumers,” said Rosenfeld.

Unconvinced residents protested and mocked them for incorrectly spelling Humboldt Park.

“It’s such a small thing, but it shows a lot,” shouted a member from the audeince. “It’s symbolic.”

Residents were also worried that the opening of the pawnshop would be detrimental to the community. Cristina Getierriez, event and community partnership coordinator at Rumble Arts, called the pawnshop an “eyesore.”

She said it goes against everything the community is trying to do to move upward.

“I am 100 percent opposed to a business coming into the neighborhood and bringing it down,” Getierriez said.

Others showed up at the meeting to support Cash America.

Alberto Rodriguez, mentor manager at another Chicago store location, said he loves working for the company.

“What I do is awesome to me,” said Rodriguez. “I love helping people that need help.”

He also added that the company allows him to give back to the community in many ways, and that he feels good knowing that he has helped a family buy school supplies for their children or supplying them with lunch money for the week.

Another resident, who plays basketball at the park, also supports the company because it sponsors his team and gives them uniforms.

Opposing residents argued that the local pawnshop gives more money with less interest and that there is no need for a Cash America in that location.

“I’d rather have a local business in that location than a corporate company,” a resident said at the meeting.

Many Rumble Arts volunteers had been going door-to-door weeks before the meeting asking residents if they knew that the company wanted to set up shop in the neighborhood.

Patricia Martinez, a volunteer at Rumble Arts, said very few residents were aware of the company’s intention to open the store.

“People did not know,” said Martinez. “I asked, ‘Did you know Cash America is coming here? They are coming to bring another pawnshop into a neighborhood that has low income and cannot pay for their things.’ And what did they say? ‘We don’t want them here.’ And that’s why we showed up, because we wanted to represent the ones that didn’t know.”

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