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This is my third interview with a locksmith for the “30 under 30” series and this is the first one conducted with one who is an employee and not the business owner. Jay Ricciardi works for Ed Fitzgerald, owner of Arnold’s Safe and Lock in Pennsauken, NJ. I’ve spoken with Jay many times while making a sales call or calling on the phone to speak with Ed. He’s always impressed me as a pleasant young man with a good sense of humor. Here is the conversation Jay and I had with my tape recorder running on June 17, 2008.
How long have you worked here and how’d you get started?
I’ve been here three years. I was working at a local machine shop and wanted to move on. I didn’t do much machining but had an idea of what it was like to work with the kind of precision needed in locksmithing.
How did you wind up here? Did you answer an ad or know about it already?
It was somewhere in the back of my mind but if it weren’t for a friend of a friend suggesting that I come here and apply, I probably never would have tried. I didn’t figure there was anyone looking to hire someone who knew nothing about locksmithing but I came in one day and spoke with Ed and that was that.
What made you think locksmithing might work out for you?
I didn’t figure it out right away but I enjoy the brain work involved. I like the fact that you have to think a lot about what you’re doing. At first I was just looking to get out of where I was and it was by chance that it worked out.
I’ve always described this work as a great mix of working with your hands and your mind. Were you somewhat handy to that point?
Yeah, slightly, but I’m a whole lot more handy now than I was then. I never thought I’d be doing something like this right out of high school; I didn’t think I was capable of it.
What did you think a locksmith did before you showed up here?
I had no clue; I would have said they cut keys. The first day I started I still had no clue. When I got here, we were cutting a lot of safe deposit keys for a job so I began by doing that. After that I did things as they came up. Pinning Schlage cylinders is something I did early on.
Marty Arnold (original owner) and Ed and Harry and the others are all very good and knowledgeable locksmiths so you were fortunate to begin here. Considering you had no other shop to compare this one to, how do you feel about working with these guys?
It’s great because if a customer comes in with something new to me, I know someone else here will know about it. Between the two who are here, there isn’t much they don’t know.
What’s a typical day like for you now?
I’m working in the shop answering the phone, waiting on customers. If there’s a project to be done like a master key system or cutting 150 keys for somebody, then I do that.
Do you enjoy working with customers?
Yeah, I do. I enjoy the face to face and the small talk that happens. I enjoy helping to solve a problem when it’s something I know. It feels good to help somebody. Just like I was clueless when I started, a lot of people are when they come in or call.
Locksmithing is no longer about just keys and locks. Electronics are a much bigger part of the industry. Is that something you’re working with here?
Not that much because I’m not installing it. I have been to a few classes like the one Keri Systems offers. I’m very interested in the whole computer part of it. We don’t do that much of it and when we do, it’s not me doing the installation. When you learn it in a classroom, you don’t remember much in six months if you haven’t actually done it. We just don’t have that much of a call for it yet.
How do you see your future in this industry? What would you like to see happen? Do you see locksmithing being a way to accomplish what you want to in your life?
To just keep learning as much as I possibly can and to keep moving up. I do see locksmithing helping me in my life as long as I could do it the way I’d like to, whatever way that may be. I’d like to keep it going the way it is because I still have a lot to learn.