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Brennan Out: Badlands Pawn Closed, Gun Range and Radio Station for Sale

Sixteen minutes after midnight, sore loser Chuck Brennan posted this happy New Year’s message on his Badlands Pawn website:

Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry was not your typical pawnshop… [“Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry Will Cease All Pawn Operations on January 1st,”, 2017.01.01].

Was. Yup, past tense. South Dakota’s most visible, vain, and vile payday lender is closing his cruder version of Wall Drug.

As usual with payday lenders, Chuck Brennan can’t even start with a completely honest sense. In one way, his closed pawn shop is quite typical, apparently not able to rise to its owner’s financial needs or aspirations in an industry declining as gold prices and unemployment fall. (Hang in there, meathead: when Donald Trump crashes the economy, pawn shops will boom again!)

Typical also is Brennan’s ungraciousness. He leaves calling the 76% of voters who supported the 36% rate cap on payday loans uninformed:

“Of course I’m let down that the initiative passed, but in many ways I think the voters were duped,” he says [Chuck Brennan, quoted in Stu Whitney, “Farewell to Badlands Pawn,” reprinted on, 2017.01.01].

…and calling sponsors of that 36% rate cap names:

But the Dollar Loan Center founder calls Hickey and Hildebrand “false prophets” and “consumer do-gooder wannabes” for their role in pushing the initiative….

“I have way more ill will against Hickey and Hildebrand than voters who stood at the voting booth not totally understanding the language of what was taking place,” says Brennan. “They thought they were protecting people, but what about people who still need money for unexpected car repairs or their power bill or rent or mortgage? Are those guys going to lend it to them? [Whitney, 2017.01.01]

Brennan tells Whitney that the 36% rate cap killed the “product that helped finance our endeavors” and that he thus had to make “hard choices”. Brennan’s choosing to keep his gun range and radio station open, but he’s bailing on those as well:

Although the Gun Range and Radio Station will remain open and NOT be shut down, we will be seeking new ownership for those businesses along with Badlands Motor Speedway in the near future.

The entire 60,000 Square Foot Badlands Pawn Building and all of the land that it is on will also be going on the market shortly [, 2017.01.01].

Buyers beware: Brennan is telling you that you need a side business to help finance the operations he’s giving up. That’s not exactly an enticing invitation to invest in any of his follies as stand-alone enterprises. And that’s not exactly the voters’ fault. The business non-viability of everything Brennan did in Sioux Falls outside the payday loan business is exactly not the voters’ fault.

But hey: Chuck Brennan is completely liquidating his South Dakota business assets and leaving our economic and cultural scene. 2017 is looking better than 2916 already. Happy New Year!

Hangover Math: Whitney reports Brennan “still has 75 stores with about 500 staff members in Nevada, California, and Utah.” That’s under seven employees per store. Brennan had eleven payday loan stores in South Dakota. That staff ratio would put maybe 75 payday loan jobs here. The pawn shop adds, what, maybe another 25? Brennan’s tantrum is costing Sioux Falls maybe 100 jobs. The South Dakota Department of Labor lists 2,700 jobs available in Sioux Falls, 470 in Aberdeen, 369 in Brookings, and 127 in Madison.

The State of South Dakota lists 108 open positions in state government alone. Working for Dennis Daugaard has got to be better than working for Chuck Brennan.


  1. 96Tears 2017-01-01 10:34

    Stu Whitney seemed overly charitable in his description of Badlands Pawn. It’s an ugly structure outside, even without the apocalyptic chopper and other trash used as ornaments. Brennan comes off as a petulant child who is shocked when an adult tells him “no.”

  2. Leesa 2017-01-01 11:25

    Glad he & his businesses are leaving. It all seemed kind of sleazy to me. And he comes off as a spoiled child, who when the game doesn’t go his way, stomps off in a rage.

  3. Rorschach 2017-01-01 12:34

    When Brennan said he pumped more money into the Sioux Falls economy than Dollar Loan Center made in SD, I believe him. He also brought a lot of cool concerts here that we would have never had otherwise. Some aspects of those multiple businesses he started didn’t have a good business case, but together some could help support the others. Dollar Loan Center supported all of them.

    Once again, I was one of the 76% who supported the initiative that put Dollar Loan Center out of business in SD. I understand why Brennan is closing down those businesses that would require subsidies to continue. Brennan lost a lot of money on these ventures. Let’s credit him for wanting to, and actually, giving back to the community.

  4. Wade Brandis 2017-01-01 13:11

    Now that the pawn is closed, we can throw around ideas as to what can go inside the building that could really kickstart the development of the sports and entertainment district.

    A sports bar or restaurant would be a good choice for that area. A Dave & Busters could work. They are essentially an adult version of Chuck E. Cheeses, with a massive arcade game area and a sports bar and restaurant. A Cabela’s-type store could also work, but I think there also needs to be surrounding development to support the outdoor store or the sports bar/restaurant. The immediate area where Badlands Pawn sits isn’t very inviting. Surrounding the pawn are an old AAA South Dakota office, an old Super 8 motel, and further down the service road, an old American Budget Lodge which I believe was once an Econo Lodge. Those two motels get mixed reviews online. There is also the surrounding industrial and factory buildings.

    They also need to fix a glaring access issue. There is no way to drive directly into the Badlands Pawn parking lot anymore. You have to get on the service road before you can get to the pawn parking lot. Before Russell St was rebuilt, the parking lot and service road did have a driveway aligned with the end of West Ave. It was removed after construction was done.

  5. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-01-01 15:38

    What a bizarre chapter in Sioux Falls history. The pawn store lasted roughly “13” months, which is an omen itself to the whole situation.

    Now let us close this chapter to the following music….The concert that will never be:

  6. grudznick 2017-01-01 16:06

    The people of Sioux Falls should at least be please that these unsavory rock bands will not be coming to town and bringing their fan bases with them. Sioux Falls has enough problems without adding more degenerates to the mix.

  7. Troy 2017-01-01 16:25


    I’m with you. Whether you agree or not with pay day lending, what has occurred after the election was predictable and a direct consequence. I’m sure knowledge of the consequence wouldn’t have changed the outcome but they are directly related. Personally, I love walking around pawn shops as I see things I didn’t know I ‘needed” or my want is so much I will pay full retail new price.


    The access issue will not be “fixed” as you suggest. Because of the volume of traffic coming and going both directions on Russell, access to the north must be either west or east of West. That said, I don’t think the lack of access from West is a material negative to the development of the area. What the Pawn Shop intended to be (destination retail outlet) is likely the “best use” of the property so you are on to something with regard to a Cabela’s type spot. Not so sure on a Dave & Busters. There is already a Buffalo Wild Wings in the area and too many people drive by (from inside Sioux Falls) drive by alternative pub options before attending an event at Premier Center, Arena, Convention Center, etc.

  8. MD 2017-01-01 17:23

    I wanted to change the argus headline: Delusional Former Sioux Falls Media Whore Blames Poor Business Decisions on Voter Will.

    Its not like we didn’t see this coming, the area media outlets just need to quit letting him prolong all of our misery. He bought and built a bunch of failing businesses that we could all see were not going to last, now he is blaming it on losing one industry. Anyone that saw the badlands promo material knew that Brennan was crazy to think that any of this pawn business was going to succeed, he did a poor job at producing and had a poor cadre of people supporting it. He found a bunch of people that were willing to take his money to make some crazy childhood dream fail.
    Not unexpected, now time to move on.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-01 17:33

    Ror, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m of the impression Brennan portrayed the pawn shop/gun range/concert venue as an operation that could sustain itself and flourish as a tourist attraction without any support from payday lending. If the market won’t support his businesses on their own, then Sioux Falls doesn’t need them, and we haven’t lost much if anything.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-01 17:34

    Hey, Wade! I’ve stayed at the Super 8. Good rate, and not far from Terrace Park. But yeah, access is a pain. That should knock the sale price a few five figures.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-01 17:37

    Troy, if we need to maintain Russell Ave as a major thru-way, are we giving up opportunities for more commercial development along that road? If we want more business to build out that direction, don’t we have to slow traffic down and create more ins, outs, stops, and crossings? What’s our city-planning goal in that area?

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-01 17:39

    I’m going to roll with MD’s read. Brennan had a poor business plan. He over-invested beyond what the local market would bear. Blaming IM21 is a dodge, letting Brennan blame others (South Dakota voters! All of us!) for his mistakes. As a one-time Republican, I must stand for personal responsibility.

  13. grudznick 2017-01-01 17:40

    Mr. H, I believe I stayed there myself, a large number of years ago. They did not put out a breakfast spread at all.

    Were you visiting the nearby Underground House of Prayer, as I was not?

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-01 18:35

    ( They had breakfast in 2014! Where’s this Underground House of Prayer? Perhaps obviously, I did not seek it out; however, I take my own portable temple for a run and jog by the Cathedral in 90-degree weather. )

  15. grudznick 2017-01-01 18:59

    I was there 30 years ago, so I am sure the breakfasting has changed in that part of town. The Underground House of Prayer is probably a much newer destination. It is there south of the motel and pawn concert and they have a blue link.

  16. SM 2017-01-01 19:16

    I’m probably the most outspoken of Chuck’s “haters” and no, I don’t owe him money nor did he dis me in high school and not take me to prom. Most people who adore him aren’t old enough to remember him the first time around, or they didn’t live here. He was a failed hack concert promoter that left town owing businesses money. He only came back he to show everyone that he became “all that and then some.” He’s never been able to be the sexy rock star he wants to be because well, he’s overweight and unattractive. He is perpetually 16 and loves to be the big shot.

    Good riddence to him AGAIN. Let’s hope it’s for good this time.

  17. moses6 2017-01-01 20:32

    never went and never cared to

  18. Wade Brandis 2017-01-01 21:11

    I remember Chuck from the time he was part of an old local sketch comedy TV program called “Captain Caribou”. Below is a little clip show from 2002 featuring bits and pieces of the early years where Chuck was part of the cast…

    Bart Naasz later replaced Chuck as “Captain Caribou”. Chuck still turned up on occasion, most memorably the greedy manager of the fictional Wiggles knockoff, the “Squiggles”. The show lasted until 2007 and one of it’s prime sponsors was Dollar Loan Center. Another useless trivia bit is Todd Magnuson helped host the early Badlands Weekly episodes, but left after only a few months.

  19. grudznick 2017-01-01 21:20

    That is very funny, Mr. Brandis. They wear buckets on their head and Mr. Brennan has a mullet cut and they put strange meats on sticks. That is very, very funny indeed. Do you know if the people who pushed the law bill to make it so people can’t get those short loans, Mr. Hickey and that other fellow, have ever seen this movie and if they used it? They should have used it in their commercials.

  20. mike from iowa 2017-01-01 22:15

    Mr. Brennan has a mullet cut and they put strange meats on sticks.

    Strange meats on sticks- acquaintances of yours, Grudz

  21. grudznick 2017-01-01 22:20

    Acquaintances I met during my travels in Iowa, Mr. mike.

  22. Troy 2017-01-02 09:02


    I don’t think the loss of a West Street (particular street and not direction for those not from Sioux Falls) access is a negative to the are at all at it allows people going through to get through and those coming to the area to get there. It is a net-net gain for area.

  23. scott 2017-01-02 09:40

    you also have to wonder what the city of sioux falls did to get him to build out there. other than the pawn shop, there has been no new buildings built after the mayor and diamond jim harley davidson told voters people would even be moving into the area next to the event center. i guess if you count the homeless staying at the arena motel, they were right. the general contractor for the project was jamison construction, who is owned by the brother of former councilor greg jamison. if you go to the minnehaha county website, you can put in an address to get the property taxes. there is no address in the database for 1600 w russell street.

  24. Mike Boswell 2017-01-02 19:29

    I don’t think Chuck was much of a businessman if he had to use the Profits from the Dollar Loan Center to support his other ventures. If he was a good businessman he would be able to draw profit from all (Rock Academy aside). The problem of course is he had to be over the top on every venture. The pawn shop ran within reason, should bring a tidy profit in a town the size of SF. Same goes for the racing venue. I just don’t think Chuck is a very good businessman.

  25. Porter Lansing 2017-01-03 00:33

    Mr. Brennan, for all his good intentions. And we all know, he wanted really good things for Sioux Falls. Mr. Brennan has learned the lesson all Ex-Patriots must learn. You cant’ go home again.

  26. Craig 2017-01-03 13:31

    I believe Chuck was hoping that Badlands Pawn would make him a star. He saw how well a few pawn shops were doing on television, and he thought he might be able to land himself a TV deal. That is why he invested money in nonsense like an in-house tattoo artist, a “mint” that cast Badlands gold coins and bars, an indoor gun range where you could rent and shoot fully automatic weapons, and a weekly TV show which served no legitimate purpose aside from showcasing Badlands as the redneck nirvana.

    Chuck isn’t a stupid man. He knew there was no way he was going to turn a profit on the pawn shop alone. He knew the only way it would be in the lblack is to have financial support from elsewhere – and he thought a reality show was the way to make it happen. That is also why he invested so heavily into Badlands braded merchandise as he thought he would end up being like Pawn Stars where more revenue is generated in the gift shop side of things as opposed to the pawn shop.

    Unfortunately for Brennan, the reality show concept peaked a few years earlier, and audiences have moved on. Once he realized keeping the doors open would continue to require hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket each and every month he realized it just wasn’t worth it.

    He will be lucky to sell the building for half of what he put into it. Sadly the location just isn’t that great and the building is so heavily customized that it would need to be completely gutted for most future tenants. Someone might try to lease the space as a concert venue, but I think it will be difficult to make the numbers work.

    My only regret is that I didn’t pay a visit on the 31st to see if I could score a deal of the century on some of the remaining merchandise they had in stock. I’m sure the employees knew it was their last day, so they probably didn’t care much if they were selling things 90% below market value. I had already heard the rumors about it being the last day, but even with that knowledge in hand I just wasn’t motivated enough to drive all the way out there to look at their lackluster offerings. That sums up my experience with Badlands Pawn pretty well.

  27. Wade Brandis 2017-01-03 15:25

    When Badlands was announced, they hyped up the potential TV show aspect. They proposed a number of programs including the reality show, a game show called “Pawn 4 Gold”, Badlands Live, Badlands Weekly and the Morning Crash. Only the last two ever came to fruition, and there is no way of knowing if the first two shows entered production. Badlands Live became a segment of the weekly infomercials.

    I have been to Badlands Pawn at least five or six times over the last year. Every time I was there, no one was in the foundry. That was supposed to be one of their trademark attractions. The in-house tattoo parlor shut down in the fall, and the space ended up being used to showcase the concert memorabilia they were trying to sell off. The number of people on the pawn floor was low. The deli seemed to be the busiest spot besides the gun store and range.

    I didn’t find many deals at Badlands, but I did get a few electronic gadgets that worked out of the box as they should. Once I figured Badlands was on it’s last legs, I got a simple Badlands logo T-shirt and a copy of the “Ghost Riders in the Sky” CD single. I wanted a die cast “Gold Run’r” car, but wasn’t able to get one.

    The deli was the best part, and it probably won’t open up again in another location. I asked Cleaver’s Market about the deli, and they pulled out of the deli about two months ago.

    Craig brought up great points as to why Badlands failed. I think If the pawn shop reality TV show was still relevant, Badlands Pawn could have lasted more than just one year. It may have even succeeded in becoming the next tourist trap that Chuck wanted. It opened to great hype and media coverage, but as evidenced by my personal experiences and that of others, the hype wore off quickly. At least the gun range and KBAD radio are doing well enough, though KBAD will have to invest in outside advertisers since their main sponsor is no longer open.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2017-01-03 20:47

    That’s how it looks to me, Mike. I’m glad you’re not buying Brennan’s excuses. He sounds like he’s just trying to cover up his own bad business planning. The only way he can make a buck, apparently, is by exploiting vulnerable people. And that’s no way to make a buck.

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