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For my second interview with a locksmith under 30 years old, I wanted to speak with Demetrius Heggs, owner of All City Locksmith in Philadelphia. He was 29 years old when I first approached him about the interview but I didn’t get to it until after his 30th birthday. We met at his shop and had a candid conversation about how he got started and how he sees the locksmith industry so far. Following are Locksmith Ledger’s questions and Demetrius Heggs’ answers.
How did you get started in the locksmith industry?
I was a Philadelphia police officer; I became one in 1997 when I was 19 years old. I transferred from another district to the one in this part of the city and there was a locksmith named Gary just three blocks away from the police station. I would drive by his shop all the time and I got curious. I then got to know another locksmith, Paul, who would talk to me about the trade and I became more interested. I kept going by Gary’s shop, getting on his nerves, driving up in a patrol car and watching him impressioning keys and eventually he took me under his wing.
It seems like there are several ex-policemen in our industry. What’s the connection?
I have no clue. I’ve never actually spoken to other ex-cops about what made them cross over. Police and locksmiths will run into each other at evictions, car lockouts, etc. Police are often called to open cars for people and when they couldn’t get it open, they’d still be there when the locksmith arrives. So I guess there are quite a few instances where the police and locksmith get to interact.
How do you feel about that interaction now that you’re the locksmith? Do people still call police to open their cars as much as they used to?
Absolutely. Even though cars are more difficult to open now, they still make an attempt. A lot of people just want to get it done for free. When I was a cop, we had that request come up so often on the radio it was insane; they’d call us for openers. It hasn’t changed; people still call 911.
Did you already enjoy working with your hands before locksmithing?
I didn’t do much work with my hands when I was a cop but everything I do now and learn has become second nature. To this day I pick up on stuff easily without previous experience.
How long has it been since you started?
I started at the end of 1999 and I went into it full time on Christmas day, 2005, when I left the police department. That was my Christmas present to myself. I started off helping Gary, the locksmith down the street, while I was getting things going for myself. There was another locksmith on this street a few doors down and I did some work for him also.
One can’t help but notice that just one block away is another locksmith. How does that work for you?
That’s Gary, the guy who I got started with. You would think that having another locksmith right here would result in competition, but it’s not the case. Our situation is more cooperative than competitive. When he’s tied up, he refers business to me and I do the same with him. When he needs help, I go help him and he does the same for me. The situation couldn’t be better.
He’s old school and I’m new school. He’ll be working on something newer for quite a while and I’ll walk in and have it done in a few minutes; it’s hilarious! There’s a lot of older stuff I call him for and he knows his stuff.
What do you enjoy the most about what you’re doing?
The freedom and use of my time. I come and go as I please. I do have regular store hours from 11 to 6. I’m in and out all day long and it’s hard to find good help. Even though there’s a big CLOSED sign on the door, people still call and ask if I’m open. When I’m real busy and someone needs a remote for their car, for example, I’ll go to them at no extra charge.