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Sam Light Loan & Mercantile Co.

The origins of the Sam Light Loan & Mercantile Co. are a little murky. The sign painted on the outside wall reads, "50 years at this location," but that's outdated by a decade, and the Light family's involvement in the pawn trade goes back even further. Sam Light, a Russian emigré, started business as a tailor when he came to St. Louis in the 1920s. In the early '30s a pawnbroker friend encouraged Light to start making loans to his customers -- it was the Depression, after all. By 1943, when Light moved the store to its current location at the corner of Olive Street and Jefferson Avenue, the tailoring business was gone. Light's grandson, Ronnie Light, is the third-generation proprietor of this classic downtown pawn shop (and of the family's second store in Maplewood), overseeing an extensive selection of cheap, cheap, cheap electronics, jewelry, sporting goods, records and assorted uncategorizables.

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