30 Under 30: Tommy Shafer

Getting Started In A family Locksmithing Business


I’ve known Larry & Cliff Shafer, owners of CLC Locksmith, for quite some time but only met Larry’s son Tommy in the course of the past year. I didn’t realize he was not even 17 yet and thought that as a part of our 30 under 30 series, I’d speak with both father and son together. When I first arrived at their shop after 5 p.m., Larry was on his way back from a job and his brother Cliff was kind enough to fill in. The following is how the conversations went.

Cliff, what does CLC actually stand for?
Clarence, Larry and Cliff. Clarence was dad, and since he’s passed, I’ve taken liberties and now it’s Cliff, Larry and Clarence.

Tom, how long have you been hanging around here in the shop?
Since I was very young, whether I was working or just hanging out with my dad and the guys. I always liked being here, cutting keys and other stuff. I was too young to remember when I cut my first key.

Do you remember being here when your grandfather was here?
CS: Actually Tommy would have been too young to remember that. Our dad started the business in 1972 when Larry and I were in high school. Larry came to work here out of high school and when it got busy, my dad asked if I wanted to come to work. I was in college as a communications major and decided this would be the better choice. My dad did not give us the business; he sold it to us.

So when did you begin to realize the full breadth of what goes on in a lock shop and how cool it is to be opening and repairing people’s locks for them?
TS: It was almost a year ago when I started working here every day after school. That’s when I really started learning a lot more.

Whose idea was it for you to come into the shop?
My dad knew I would if he asked me to and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I started coming in a couple of times a week and eventually I was coming in every day.

Do you see locksmithing as a way to earn a living and support yourself in the future?
Yes I do. There’s a lot to learn but I’m doing it slowly and getting the hang of it.

What have been some of your first responsibilities as a paid employee?
TS: I’ve been rekeying locks and learning something new every day.
CS: Just like most people coming in and starting at the bottom, he’s started out doing things like cleaning the key machines, sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage. That’s all part of it. You don’t come in here at the top, and you work your way up from the bottom.

Do you think you’re treated any differently because you’re the son and the nephew of the owners?
TS: No, I’m treated the same way; they all mess around with me. I get treated the same as everyone else.
At this point of the interview Larry Shafer, Tommy’s father, has returned and will participate in the rest of the interview. Cliff, Tommy’s uncle, says good bye.

Did you love coming to the shop when you were a little kid?
TS: Yeah, I did. I remember when I was around 7 years old and playing with the box of keys in the back. I tried to help but I was pretty young.

Larry, were you thinking back then that Tommy might be working here with you one day?
LS: My attitude was always that if my kids wanted to, that was fine and if they didn’t, it was totally understandable. The opportunity was always here for them.
TS: It was always in my mind and I did always wonder about it.
LS: He’d come in to say hi sometimes and being the slave driver that I am, I’d put him to work.

Were you thinking it would be to Tommy’s benefit for him to work here or for your benefit to have him here?
It would be to his benefit if it were something he wanted to do.

Were you always good with your hands? Do you think people can be taught to work with their hands or are they born with it?
LS: He’s pretty mechanically inclined. I think they either can or can’t from the start but there’s a level of patience that’s required to be good at it. Patience is important for me to this day and that’s the part that I think is hard to learn, either you have patience or you don’t.

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