Step into the light and airy offices of Chicago Loan Company and you would never suspect you’re in a pawnshop. Located on the twelfth floor of the Heyworth Building in Chicago – valuable art on the walls and private offices in which to conduct transactions – Chicago Loan Company is a world apart from the typical storefront pawnshop.
Chicago Loan Company, formerly known as T. N. Donnelly & Co., was founded in 1881, making it one of the oldest family-owned jewelers in the United States, and arguably the oldest pawnshop. Thomas N. Donnelly ran the store along with several partners until the early 1900’s, when he and his son Thomas E. Donnelly incorporated. After World War I, the store moved from its original location at 34 North Dearborn to 35 North Dearborn across the street, continuing into the third generation of the family with brothers Christopher J. Donnelly and Robert E. Donnelly, and their cousins William Brooks and Thomas J. Brooks. In 1964, T. N. Donnelly & Co. moved off of street level to the 12th floor of the Jewelers Building at 5 North Wabash. In 2002, T. N. Donnelly & Co. moved across the street to its current location on the 12th floor of 29 East Madison.
Founded in 1881, T. N. Donnelly, now Chicago Loan Company, is the oldest pawnshop in the United States, and remains a family-owned business.
Joseph Brooks, great-great-grandson of the original T. N. Donnelly, became the owner and president of T. N. Donnelly & Co. after the retirement of his father and cousins. In 2017, he sold the business to another family-owned collateral lending institution, The Loan Companies, whose assets include Beverly Loan Company and New York Loan Company. Now a little history on The Loan Companies…
In the 1930’s, when Los Angeles’ pawnshops were concentrated downtown on Hill Street, founder Louis Zimmelman knew there was a market for a different kind of pawn brokerage. Instead of a dimly lit storefront operation where a pawnbroker sits behind a wire-enclosed booth making loans over the counter, Louis envisioned a place with the look and feel of a fine jewelry store, where the pawnbroker always wears a suit and tie, where business is conducted in private offices and where the client’s valuables are securely kept in a bank vault.
And he was just the man to do it. A snappy dresser, a gentleman, and a jeweler whose family had been in the diamond trade for four generations, Louis chose Beverly Hills as the site for his new pawnshop. Hidden away in a bank building, the original Beverly Loan Company was a place where Hollywood’s movie stars, movie executives and affluent Westsiders temporarily down on their luck could discreetly pawn their jewelry for quick cash without going downtown.
After the War, both brothers put their full energies into building the business. Soon after, Beverly Loan Company was well established with an extensive list of famous clients. Louis knew that in a town as image-conscious as Los Angeles, discretion is essential, so Beverly Loan Company made confidentiality its inviolable rule. This decision has served Beverly Loan Company and the Zimmelman family well. In 70 years, no name of any client has ever been revealed without his or her permission.
Founder Louis Zimmelman knew there was a market for a different kind of pawnshop.
In 1987, Louis’ daughter Jeannie Zimmelman joined the business.
After the death of his brother in 1987, Louis’ daughter, Jeannie Zimmelman, joined the business, and together they expanded Beverly Loan Company by hiring additional employees and computerizing the company’s recordkeeping. They were later joined by Jeannie’s sister, Helaine. Louis died in 1995 and Helaine retired in 2001. After her father’s passing, Jeannie owned and operated the business with the same standards her father taught her so well – respect your customers, give them value and maintain their confidentiality. Jeannie became the embodiment of the upscale pawnshop, an idea that her father developed seven decades earlier. Jeannie was featured in People, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Access Hollywood and the list continues…
Jeannie tragically passed away in 2005, leaving behind a husband, Brad, and two children, Lauren and Jordan, who made it their duty to run the family business with the same loyalty, enthusiasm and pride as she did.
Jordan, a licensed attorney and former full-time employee of Beverly Loan Company, rejoined the business in 2007 as its CEO, just as Jeannie had hoped. Like his mother, Jordan has represented the trade in the media, and has been featured in Los Angeles Times, Variety, TODAY, CNN and countless other publications. Jordan is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Pawnbrokers Association, and is the current co-chair of their Government Relations Committee. Jordan opened New York Loan Company in 2013, the sister company to Chicago Loan Company and Beverly Loan Company, which collectively make up The Loan Companies.
In 2007 Jordan, a licensed attorney and former employee of Beverly Loan Company, rejoined the business as its CEO, just as Jeannie had hoped.