Payday loan shop may soon open in town

A payday loan and pawn shop that will also sell luxury tobacco and snuff is slated to open March 1 at the former site of the 070 Gallery, according to a news release issued last month.

The circumstances around the shop’s opening, however, appear murky, and no one seems to know anything about its alleged owners, Peter and Ramos Zamfir. Efforts to reach them have proven unsuccessful.

“If you are calling about the Black Russian Sobranies, our next shipment should clear customs on March 6,” a voicemail message on the phone number listed in their news release says.

The news release, slipped through the Beachcomber’s mail slot in the middle of the day, says the shop — Zamfir’s Micro — will offer up “micro pawn brokerage,” specializing “in small valuables such as jewelry and rare coins.”

The shop will also offer an “assortment of tobacco and snuff from around the globe” as well as “an easy and confidential way to borrow money,” the release states.

Few seem to know anything about the Zamfirs, however, or, if they do, would not discuss the new business with a Beachcomber reporter.

The building where Zamfir’s Micro would be located is owned by Chuck and Mary Robinson. But when contacted about the new tenant, Mary Robinson sounded shocked to hear a pawn broker was moving in next door.

“I thought it was an artist,” she said.

She then referred all questions to Chuck, but when he did not return calls, The Beachcomber went to Robinson’s Furniture to discuss his new tenant. He declined to come out from a back room.

“He doesn’t want to discuss his tenants with a reporter,” Mary Robinson told The Beachcomber.

Other immediate neighbors of the new pawn shop seemed puzzled or uncertain about the developments. Jeff Lewis at Winterbrook Realty said he believed the new tenant is an artist and that the sign is a joke, but at Vashon IT, next door, the owner and an employee shrugged their shoulders and looked at a Beachcomber reporter quizzically when asked about it.

“All I know is what’s in the press release,” the employee said.

The Beachcomber then e-mailed Ramos Zamfir, whose e-mail address was included in the news release. He answered a few days later, saying he was headed to Germany but offering up this piece of information: “Our micro will be a jewelry pawn and we have many exotic tobacco products also. I wish to rent a larger warehouse by the market west of town. I think Troy Kindred will help us.”

The Beachcomber then called Kindred, who said he’d never heard of Ramos Zamfir.

“I walked past the old 070 Gallery and saw the sign in the window, and at first I thought it was a joke,” Kindred said. “But now I don’t, only because the world is upside down. Napa and Back Bay closing. A tattoo shop in the Old Fuller Store. You know, times they are a-changing.”

According to the news release, the Zamfir family also owns Midwest Money Centers in Youngstown, Ohio. But a Google search suggested that the owner is actually Michael Dohar, who has four shops in the Youngstown area.

Reached by phone in Youngstown, Dohar said he’d never heard of the Zamfirs. What’s more, he added, his shops are all payday loan shops; he has a pawn brokerage license but hasn’t used it in years. He doesn’t sell tobacco, he added.

Might there be another Midwest Money Center? “I’m pretty sure we’re the only one,” he said. “We’ve got a corporate name.”

And how does he feel about the fact that someone in Washington state is using his company’s name?

“At least my name’s out on the coast,” Dohar answered. “As long as it’s name only … it’s no skin off my ass. We’re just a small, local operation.”

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