As a senior at Texas A&M University, Jeff Bakker thought he had his life mapped out. After graduating in May of 1986, the future owner of 2K Pawn & Gun in Decatur planned to pursue admission to veterinary school. But his life took another path.
“My dad had owned a pawn shop in Eastland while I was going to school,” he said. “I was trying to get into vet school, but the grades weren’t where they needed to be.”
He had become familiar with Decatur on routine trips through town with his wife, Reba, and he saw something in the movement of businesses, the traffic coming through and the people of Decatur that stood out.
He brought the idea of building a business in Decatur to his father, and three decades later, Bakker’s store still stands at the intersection of Business U.S. 380 and Deer Park Road. The business will host a 30th anniversary celebration Thursday at 1 p.m. with lunch and a gun raffle.
“Everything was kind of happening here,” Bakker said, recalling the ’80s. “I kept telling my dad, ‘hey, you need to look at Decatur. You need to look at Decatur.’ My dad came up here and looked at the school and the area and said, ‘yeah, we got to do something.'”
Bakker and his father built the store on the town’s west side, hoping recent growth on Farm Road 51 south would max out and come his way.
“It did,” he joked. “We just missed it by 20 years.”
2K Pawn & Gun opened in August 1986, less than three months after Bakker graduated college. While most businesses struggle in their early years, Bakker said, coming directly from a college, he was accustomed to working hard and living on a tight budget.
“They say most businesses go out the first year and definitely by the first five,” he said. “That was definitely the hard times, but when you come out of college, you don’t have any money anyway. We were used to the bologna sandwiches, so it didn’t matter.”
Business slowly picked up. Reba joined the store’s staff in 1991. The couple will celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary Wednesday. Longtime sales associate Matt Lavender came on board in high school.
While the city and surrounding areas have grown and the gun and ammunition market has skyrocketed in recent years, Bakker said he still sees the most business from pawns.
The items regularly pawned have changed since the store started, he said. Where he could once fill a wall with televisions and VCRs, current technology is updated too quickly to hold a stable price.
“That’s why we gravitate to the guns and jewelry,” he said. “The big stores will gravitate to electronics now. I just never saw longevity there. If a guy brings in a gun and gets a $200 loan I want him to pick it up so he can loan it again, where that phone, I might get a year out of him before that’s just obsolete.”
Regardless of the type of customer, Bakker said operating a pawn shop means working with that person to meet their needs. It’s a practice learned from his father that still brings in customers from as far away as the Metroplex.
“We don’t just sell,” he said. “Now that’s part of the job; being personable to sell an item, but then you’ve got to turn and loan on a thousand dollar ring, so you’ve got to be able to change with the customer. You’re not doing the same thing every day. Here, you may sell a $3 set of wrenches and turn around and loan on a $1,000 rifle and trade for two or three other guns in the same hour.
“That’s one thing my dad always taught me, is you treat them all the same, whether it’s a guy borrowing $5 or a guy that can buy a $5,000 shotgun. They’re the same. You respect them.”
2K PAWN & GUN 30TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
- 1 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 25
- 500 $100 raffle tickets for 100 guns benefiting the Wise Choices mobile medical unit fund
- Call 940-627-7800 for details.