Biz birthday: When Mike and Betty Holcomb launched Mainland Pawn Shop & Custom Jewelry 40 years ago, they began by selling his hunting and fishing gear and some of her jewelry. But the venture that began at 106 state Highway 3 in La Marque on a shoestring, has grown into one of the most successful pawn shops in the county, offering a wide variety of merchandise.

Much has changed in 40 years since the business began. The independent businesses that operated on Highway 3 near Mainland Pawn Shop — Bogatto’s Grocery Store, Schreiber & Miller Furniture to name a couple — have disappeared. 

“Sadly, we’ve seen the mom-and-pops go a little at a time,” Betty Holcomb said. 

Technology has changed what people pawn. Reel-to-reel movie projectors have been replaced by iPads. But some things never change, including the awkward moments when a customer has forgotten to remove very personal images that sometimes end up on a large screen at the shop when employees are testing the merchandise. 

Also constant is the need for some people to explain why they need money, Holcomb said. Years back, a customer said she needed money because her husband had a lung removed, Holcomb said. 

“She came back a few days later and said they were going to remove the other one.”

But the biggest constant, and the one that has made the business successful, is customer service, Holcomb said. The grandchildren of some of the shop’s first customers now walk through the doors, Holcomb said.

“What we still offer is service,” Holcomb said. “It’s about service and acknowledging that we know these people and their lives.” 

Mainland Pawn Shop & Custom Jewelry has come a long way since its beginnings. The shop offers an extensive line of firearms, more than half new.

Betty Holcomb also creates original jewelry designs, along with offering a large collection of new and used pieces. 

“Guys like to talk guns, women like to talk jewelry,” she said.

What are some of the oddest items people pawn? 

“Teeth. Gold teeth and grills,” Holcomb said. 

In case you didn’t know, a grill is a type of jewelry worn over teeth.

What the Holcombs enjoy most are the customers, she said. Her son is involved in the business, and the family plans to continue for years to come, she said.

“Not one day goes by that’s like the other day,” Holcomb said. “The people are the most interesting — the stories and tales they tell.” Call 409-935-6673.

Fuel fact: All that construction work at 6101 Broadway on the island is for a Texaco filling station. An Exxon franchise once operated at the prime site, but more recently the business has gone by the name 61st Food Mart. Pearland-based Project Construction, the contractor, is giving the place a complete interior makeover and making some exterior improvements. No word on an opening date. 

Do you have loyalty to a particular gas station? Tell us at Buzz Blog,

Globe trotting: Here’s another reason for islanders to be proud. Former Galvestonian Ian Thomas has been named president of Boeing China. Thomas, the son of former Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, will be based in Beijing. Thomas, 48, had been president of Boeing Australia & South Pacific since March 2009. Before that, he was president of Boeing India from January 2007 to March 2009. 

“Ian Thomas is one of our most experienced leaders in international markets,” said Shep Hill, president of Boeing International and senior vice president of Business Development and Strategy. “He has made a significant impact on our business in Australia and is well suited to lead our activities in China, with a focus on further growing our business in one of the world’s most dynamic markets for commercial aircraft.”

Thomas attended Weis and Central middle schools and Ball High School for a year before attending the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Amherst College, a graduate degree in social sciences from the University of Stockholm, a master’s degree in international relations and a doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge

Thomas worked for the Clinton administration as assistant to the director of NATO policy in the office of the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. For a brief period, he trained with 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, in Borneo. 

He is an authority on security policies and programs of the United States and its key allies in Europe and Asia. 

(3) comments

Freaky Tiki

"Globe trotting: Here’s another reason for islander’s to be proud." That should have read "islanders".

Dorothy Holt

I have never been in a pawn shop. I believe the pawn shops are just a legal way for a burglar to use for fencing their stolen goods unless it is a gun or traceable jewelry. I wonder which shop sold the pressure washer stolen from me a few years back? It happens and the shops know it happens.

Lars Faltskog

I'd have to agree, DottyOA. I went in one time to a pawnshop to buy an amplifier and the clientele was a bit dicey. I got bad vibes and decided to buy retail.

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