30 Under 30: Jay Ricciardi

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...


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Can you see the day when we’re not using keys any more?
Yes, eventually half the stuff we use now will be gone. If they could figure out a way, residentially, for people to not have keys at all, they’d love it. Ask any ten people if they’d rather not have to carry keys in their pocket and most will say yes. I’m not sure how long it will take but it will happen eventually. One day we’ll just be pushing buttons and reading our hands and our eyes.
Are you doing any work outside of the shop?
Not as much as I’d like. I have to be in here because I have much more responsibility than I did a couple of years ago. When we had more people here and I didn’t know as much, I’d be able to go out and watch and learn. Now I know more and I’m needed in here more.

What would you say to someone who’s considering this field?
I say give it a try because it’s not for everybody. I’ve seen several people come and go in the short time I’ve been here. Some people just aren’t smart enough and others find out they just don’t like it. For me, it’s challenging which is part of the reason I like it. If you’re not interested in being challenged then I wouldn’t even try. To do well here, you have to have an open mind and be willing to learn. You have to be willing to deal with people and swallow when certain things happen with customers.

Is it rewarding to be trusted by customers who are in trouble or needing more security in their lives?
It’s a good thing. Locksmiths should be trusted since we could get in almost anywhere.

Are you amazed at how many locksmiths are good and trustworthy people?
The ones in here are. I haven’t been around long enough to know what many others are like but I trust everyone who works here enough to leave money lying around.

Are you aware of things you’d like to learn more about that you don’t see much here?
Yeah, I read the Locksmith Ledger. I’m sure it’s kind of strange that a 25 year old locksmith reads the Locksmith Ledger; I guess I’d be considered a nerd by other 25 year olds.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to you learning as much as you’d like to?
There are obstacles everyday in the form of each lock I work on. You have a problem with a lock and it gives you a headache for a half hour and you eventually figure it out; you just learned something. Hopefully you won’t get another headache with that lock unless it’s ten years later.
How do you feel when something totally new is put in front of you to work on?
As long as I have a general idea of the basics I’m OK. Recently I started doing Sargent and Corbin IC cores. If you just put it in front of me, I don’t have a clue but if I have a sheet helping me with what pins to use for what manufacturer, then I’ll figure it out. I’m better at figuring things out with my head than I am with my hands; I’m average with my hands. As long as I have the ability to figure things out in my head, I’ll be alright.

If you had a young guy under your wing, what would you say to him?
Take your time and don’t rush anything. People have been here who weren’t meant for this job and couldn’t cut a key very well. Take your time and pay attention.

Do you still ask the more experienced guys a lot of questions?
 I still ask Harry about five a day. If I think it’s a stupid question, I’ll say “I have a stupid question.”

What would you like to convey to the older guys in this business? What should those around someone early on in their locksmith career keep in mind?
I would ask them to remember that we haven’t been doing this as long as they have. Please remember what it was like for you. If you sit them down and ask them, most could remember what it was like but not on a day- to-day basis. I’m not saying the guys in here are hard on me, but once in a while you have to remind them that, ‘You’ve been here 30 years and I’ve been here three.’

If you had to do one particular locksmithing task all the time, what would it be?
It would have to be impressioning. I know I couldn’t master key all day because that would drive me nuts. As long as I was impressioning a variety of locks all day, I wouldn’t mind. I couldn’t work in a factory on an assembly line. Ed (the owner) has sent me to five or 10 classes since I’ve been here and Mr. Arnold’s impressioning class was definitely the best. I think that may have something to do with why I like it so much; he taught it so well. His words still play in my head and it makes a big difference.  

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