Q&A: ALOA President Bob Mock

Locksmith Ledger sits down with Bob Mock to discuss his career and the future of the locksmith industry.


Bob Mock seems to be some kind of icon around here. What do you say to that? I started out over 30 years ago. My degrees are in landscape design and horticulture. It was getting really long in the tooth. I was working seven days a week managing a multi-million dollar retail outfit and my wife...


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Bob Mock seems to be some kind of icon around here. What do you say to that?

I started out over 30 years ago. My degrees are in landscape design and horticulture. It was getting really long in the tooth. I was working seven days a week managing a multi-million dollar retail outfit and my wife was getting antsy about the fact that she never saw me.

So how did locksmithing enter into the picture?

My dad was a locksmith and a Philadelphia fireman. Back 35 or 40 years ago, the alter ego for many firemen and policemen was locksmithing or painting. They both required the use of ladders so maybe that had something to do with it.

How involved was your dad?

He was actually the sergeant at arms for GPLA (Greater Philadelphia Locksmith Association) back around 1970. He asked if I would come help him and being good with my hands I would occasionally help putting in locks and he started to teach me. Back then I wasn’t allowed to use power tools and I did everything with a brace and bit until he trusted me enough. Back then locksmiths were a little fussier about how they left a job. They actually cleaned up! I knew guys back then that would go back and do touch-up painting.

You don’t see that much anymore?

No you don’t, not at the cost of labor per hour. So after awhile of working with him I became really interested in it. All of a sudden I had a revelation that this is an industry that doesn’t stop.

What does that mean?

I had buddies in other trades like plumbing and it’s been the same for the last 100 years. The big new thing in plumbing was plastic pipe. They were still bringing pieces of pipe together to bring in water and bring waste away. With locksmithing, there was always something new going on and what I call the Houdini factor was a biggie back then. I told my dad that I wanted to learn more and he wasn’t interested in anything other than being a one-man show out of his truck.

So what did you do from there?

He said he’d ask at a meeting if anyone needed any help. I had three guys interested. On the first interview I told owner I wanted to be an apprentice and would guarantee him five years and not run off and start my own business. I told him that I wanted him to teach me everything. I didn’t even talk to the other two. I wanted the top spot and couldn’t have it at the other shops anyway.

So the top spot was important to you?

Always. I’m the kind of guy who thinks I’m the manager while I’m sweeping floors. There’s a saying I heard once that said, “The view is the same unless you’re the lead dog,” and I always shot for that.

How’d the apprenticeship go?

I wound up being there for 26 years. For a long time it was a very affable arrangement because I was able to pursue association work, which takes time.

When did you become involved with locksmith associations?

When I first joined GPLA, you had to be a member for two or three years in order to become a full member. My plaque still says apprentice member. I became a full member in 1979 and six months after that I became corresponding secretary. Since then it didn’t stop. Until this year I’ve been on the GPLA board every year. With being president of ALOA, it’s too much.

You served as president of GPLA for eight or so years. Did you have many changes in mind during this time?

Back in the day this was a pretty closed organization. You would hear people make comments about GPLA being a bunch of snobs. My opinion was that if a guy was in the business, then he had something to offer. My dad had special dispensation from the association because you used to have had a store to be a member. If you go to a place like Tennessee today, you’ll find that about 80 percent of the locksmith businesses are mobile ones. In essence it was a business association and not really a locksmith association.

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