By Mike Campbell

LIVONIA (WWJ) – The owner of a chain of pawn shops wants to expand into Livonia, but residents living nearby aren’t too happy with the idea.

Motor City Pawn Brokers is seeking the city’s approval to open a new store at an old, vacant, free-standing gym on Middlebelt Road just north of 6 Mile Road.

Owner Mark Aubrey, who operates pawn shops in several different metro Detroit locations, said none are located west of Southfield, which makes the Livonia spot perfect to service the area.

But residents in the nearby Valley Wood Condominiums say they’re concerned about the type of clientele the store might bring in. Laura Koenig, one of the condominium’s board members, claims a gun shop and a liquor store nearby have already led to problems.

“There were cars stolen, wheels taken off cars, so we did upgrade all the new lighting, security doors, locks, we just recently put a fence around our pool for security. Now, we’re looking at adding cameras,” she said. “I mean, I don’t know what else we can do.”

Aubrey, however, said his business is respectable.

He thinks pawn shops are getting a bad rap from TV shows that generally paint them in a negative light.

“It’s not like what you see on TV. We haven’t had any problems in 30 years,” he told the Livonia Observer. “Our customers, they love us here. It’s really not that way, and the perception they have, it’s a real false perception.”

Aubrey said he has had few problems in the communities where his other businesses are located. He’s seeking a waiver petition to operate the shop at a meeting Tuesday night in front of the Livonia Planning Commission.

If approved by the city, Aubrey said the 12,000-square-foot facility could open before the end of the year, bringing about 25 new jobs to the area.

Residents of a Livonia condo complex are expected to pack a planning commission meeting Tuesday evening to voice their concern about the project.

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