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A Gold Rush at Maple and Wycliff

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During the past 21 years, Larry Covington has seen vacant lots morph into shops and homes at the intersection of Maple and Wycliff Avenues. For most of that time, he's worked at or near this very spot -- as a sandwich vendor, a foundation leveler, a custodian. These days, his custodial work includes a meat market, a laundromat and the remodeled Shop N Go on the corner. "I do whatever they don't want to," he says.

In recent days, he's added a new duty to his job description. In camouflage pants and a striped button-up shirt earlier this week, Covington stands on the corner confronting traffic with a black, four-foot tall sign whose bright yellow letters declare "WE BUY GOLD" in English and Spanish.

Covington tells Unfair Park Shop N Go only recently started buying gold -- the current economic distress has lead to a perceived security in the metal. He motions toward the store and says, "If you got a place like this buying gold -- that ain't a pawn shop -- there's gotta be something." Unlike a pawn shop, gold sellers at Shop N Go may not repurchase their rings and watches. "When it's gone, it's gone," he says.

Every Monday morning Covington comes to Shop N Go at 7 a.m. to sweep the parking lot where raucous weekenders leave shattered bottles. "I don't mind," he says. "Gives me a job."

As the afternoon and our conversation wore on, Covington shifted to remain in the thin strip of shade cast by a Shop N Go street sign. Asked what other lines of work he might be interested in, Covington says, "Anything to keep me out of trouble and make an honest dollar."

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