Apr 16, 2008

On Downward Mobility, Check Cashing Joints, and the Rust Belt

Pictured on your left is one of those ubiquitous check-cashing/payday loan businesses located at Dorr Street and Westwood Avenue. It is no secret that one of the few industries thriving in Toledo is the much-maligned cash advance business, given the city's location smack dab in the middle of the American Rust Belt.

What I find interesting here - as well as with the other similar businesses - is that this company set up shop in a building that once housed a Domino's Pizza. This is a recurrent scene in Toledo, and I wonder what it bodes for the city's future when even small retail businesses cannot succeed.

I happen to know the former Domino's franchisee who operated the pizza business, and he was an ex-corporate multi-unit supervisor for the chain. It was not for lack of experience or effort that his business crashed, and this should have been a winning formula, so close to the University of Toledo.

Yes, the pizza market is competitive (I myself was a multi-unit franchisee of another chain for ten years here in Toledo), but there are quite a few fast food businesses that closed up shop only to be reoccupied by a check-cashing business. Certainly the landlords of the properties cannot be faulted for maximizing the rental value of their buildings, and despite my moral disgust with businesses that charge usurious rates of interest, they are completely within the limits of state law.

Yet my view of the future of this city darkens as I drive its streets and see that these modern-day money changers are among the few scraping a profit, and knowing that the money they make is in large measure off the backs of the poorest citizens, siphoned off to corporations headquartered far, far from Toledo.


Robin said...

I share your opinion on these check cashing places. They are not good at all.

I used to work with a lady who worked at a check cashing store. She told me that a good deal of their customers were people most would think wouldn't need that kind of "service". Doctors and lawyers, etc.

dr-exmedic said...

Ever bounce a check? It's actually cheaper to get a payday loan (depending on the lender) than it is to bounce a check, since you'll get hit not just with the overdraft charges, but the person you sent the check to will usually charge you as well.

David Schantz said...

We have a check cashing business four blocks from us. Opened twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Most of the time there are young teens (14-16 year olds) hanging out in the parking lot. Makes me think their doing more than cashing checks. I'm expecting to see the Sheriffs Drug Strike Force done there some night.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

microdot said...

The last time I was in Toledo, November...I noticed more check cashing stores, but less One Dollar Stores than the time I was there before.
Does that reflect a trend of some sort?

Mad Jack said...

The perfect strip mall:

MyNails Manicure & Pedicure
Video Rental
Liquor Store
Check Cashing
PayDay Loans
Rent to Own
Antiques! Loans! (hock shop)
Gentle Touch Massage (in rear)

So, you feel like getting back into business again?

historymike said...


I have heard similar stories, though I see lower-to-middle class folks going in these places, and young people in particular (read: naive).

historymike said...

Dr-ex medic:

Yep - I have bounced checks, though not in a long, long time. I agree that a check-cashing place is better than a $40 returned check fee, though I prefer to simply make $200 my "absolute low balance."

historymike said...

David Schantz:

Agreed that some of these payday loan places can attract unsavory characters, as they are usually the first stop for addicts after a check arries in the mail.

historymike said...


Probably means that even Dollar Stores struggle to make a buck in a city like Toledo.

historymike said...

Mad Jack:

I would rather stab my eyes with red-hot salad forks than ever go into a retail business again.

There's little money to be made, and small business owners generally wind up with an 80-hour-a-week job that does not pay well.

The only "business" I would consider is something that involves my own labors, like the small change I make from freelance writing, tutoring, and editing. No overhead, no employees - just work and cash and whatever taxes are owed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with dr-exmedic...I've had to use payday loans for myself before. It's really not that bad. You just need to make sure to pay back on time. Hell of a lot cheaper than a late fee too.