“Treasure hunter” may not be a real-world job title, but it’s a good description of what Lauren Kaminsky does for a living. As the curator of Beauty & Essex, she chooses the items for the restaurant’s pawnshop-inspired retail store, mixing an assortment of sapphire earrings and golden bracelets, vintage toys and classic guitars that guests can peruse for fun and for purchase. As a third-generation pawnbroker, she’s spent years developing an eye for finding the beautiful among the banal and has been applying that skill to fill the glass cases at Beauty & Essex New York for six years and now at the Las Vegas location.
How did you get involved with Beauty & Essex?
I had just graduated from college and was going into my family business of pawnbroking. I saw that Beauty & Essex was opening [in New York City]—it said “restaurant, lounge and pawnshop coming to the Lower East Side”—and I flipped out: How did we not think of this? I took my dad with me to have dinner there opening week and we spoke to a bunch of people. It wasn’t really functional; they weren’t really selling anything, it was just props. We left our business card and we set up a meeting.
My dad and I had very different visions—I’ve been working on changing the look of the pawnshops. … EZ Pawn is the partner in the pawnshop and my brand is By GoldGirl; as By GoldGirl, I do the curating and picking out the items for sale at Beauty & Essex.
How is what you do as a curator different than traditional pawnbroking?
My whole life I would find treasures—I’d go into my dad’s store and I’d find a Cartier ring in the ring trays with everything else. To him and to most pawnbrokers, gold is gold—they weigh it; they don’t care. I always loved that feeling of finding these treasures, and that’s how I’ve set up Beauty & Essex.
Do you adapt your stock to the different locations? What’s popular in Las Vegas?
It’s definitely a little blingier. Things that are good luck charms do really well there—in the pawnshop, we’ve always gotten charm bracelets, jewelry that holds meaning. The good ones I send to Vegas. We’ve also been doing well with cuff links I’ve been finding in other pawnshops, vintage stores, flea markets, estate sales—[ones] that are unique. Batman cuff links [that are] vintage and not childish, or someone’s boyfriend really likes motorcycles, and [we might have a] cool [set] with little motorcycles where the wheels spin. People really gravitate toward things they can identify with someone, even when that person’s not around—“I was in Vegas and I bought you this.”