How a welterweight made a career out of carats

Pat Bishop stands at the counter of Bishop Pawn. In 50-plus years in the pawn business, Bishop has become an expert in fine jewelry. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Pat Bishop was a 19-year-old professional boxer with a wage-earning job at Dallas upstart Pizza Inn in 1966 when he decided to buy a pawnshop.

Bishop’s dad had been a partner in a pawnshop on East Grand and made a little money, so he helped his son buy a business in the 100 block of West Jefferson. They paid $10,250 for the old Adkins Jewelry & Loan.

“It had such a bad reputation, especially then,” Bishop says of the pawn business in general.

So he says he set out to run an honest business.

The original Bishop Pawn was in a storefront just 17 feet wide and about 70 feet deep. He eventually expanded to three buildings on West Jefferson, which now occupies most of the block. At one time there were eight Bishop Pawn stores in the Dallas area. Now 69, Bishop has sold most of those stores, but he kept one in Mesquite and he still comes to work on Jefferson every day.

Over his first decade in the pawn business, Bishop learned that electronics quickly become outdated. Firearms are complicated to buy and sell. But jewelry retains its value and takes up little space.

In 1975, Bishop went into the fine jewelry business. He hired jewelers to fabricate new pieces out of the old gold and gems the pawnshop bought.

“If you have an idea, we will make it,” he says.

Manufacturing luxury jewelry is where Bishop really found his pace.

He took a Gemological Institute of America course by mail and attended classes in the Gem and Jewelry District of New York City to learn how to grade and appraise diamonds.

“He’s the guru when it comes to that stuff,” says his son, Ty Bishop, who works at the shop on Jefferson.

One 50-foot-long wall of Bishop’s office is dedicated to photos from Bishop’s life. Some are of family and others are from his boxing career. But many more are of Bishop with celebrities: Dallas Cowboys great Ed “Too Tall” Jones, “Dallas” actor Patrick Duffy and President George W. Bush among them.

Some are jewelry clients. But Bishop has rubbed elbows with the rich and famous of Dallas since his Golden Gloves days.

While still a student at Hillcrest High School, Bishop told his father he wanted to try boxing.

“He said, ‘OK, if you wait until you’re 16, I will take you to a boxing gym,’” Bishop recalls.

That’s how he started training as a boxer at Jimmy’s Gym in Downtown Dallas.

The following year, he won the welterweight division of the Dallas Golden Gloves tournament. He then won the state title and traveled to Louisville, Ky. for the national tournament, where he lost to the future welterweight champion of the world. He went on to fight about 20 bouts as a pro. If you’re ever in the men’s room at Campisi’s on Mockingbird Lane, look for the poster from one of Bishop’s fights at the Sportatorium.

Aside from his boxing celebrity, Bishop also had a sister, Nannette Farlow, who worked in the TV and film business in Los Angeles. She was a location manager for “Dallas” and other TV shows and movies in the ’80s and ’90s.

That’s how Bishop Pawn wound up as a filming location on the TV movie “Dallas: J.R. Returns.” More recently, it also was a location for the new “Dallas,” which aired from 2012-14.

A few years ago, a reality TV producer came to Bishop looking for a family to feature on a show about pawnshops, but it didn’t work out.

“They said we weren’t crazy enough,” Pat Bishop says.

Early on in his pawnshop career, Bishop says, he wanted to make a good reputation for himself and the pawn business in general.

He began working with the Dallas Police Department in the early ’70s, and was one of the first pawnshop owners in Dallas to open all of his records to them. Thieves typically are easy to spot in the pawn business, Bishop says. All it takes is asking the seller a little about the item.

Once in the ’70s, someone brought in an electric typewriter. Across the front, it was labeled, “Property of the Dallas Independent School District.”

“I said, ‘Which school did you steal this from?’” The thief quickly walked out, Bishop says.

Even though he’s old enough and comfortable enough to retire, Bishop says he couldn’t imagine it. He likes appraising jewelry, meeting customers and the unpredictable aspects of life in a pawnshop.

“I just follow the golden rule of treat people how you want to be treated,” he says. “Treat them with respect, and they will respect you.”