From Generation to Generation

Locksmith distributor Arnie Goldman takes a historical look at his family business

Hardware Sales and Supply eventually became IDN-Hardware Sales. My dad retired in 1994, and I took over as president, trying to lead the next generation to survive and thrive in the locksmith industry. Like my father, I witnessed generations come and go as the security hardware industry went through its abrupt changes.

Today, locksmiths and their distributors face intense competition from the Internet, companies like Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s, direct sell manufacturers, large integrators, as well as local contract hardware distributors and sometimes lock distributors. It’s a virtual free-for-all in our industry in which small locksmiths and small distributors face huge uphill battles. If you think about the large companies of the past such as Kodak, Xerox, and Borders, you might question if the typical locksmith is going the way of Kodak. We can certainly ask ourselves if the high-tech, high-security, electronic world is passing both the locksmith and locksmith distributor, like digital books did to Borders.

Do we need to analyze history to succeed in the next decades? During the last 55 years, my dad saw extreme changes in the locksmith industry and he knows the future is scary. Yet to this day, he still believes that high quality locksmiths can survive and grow if they act and dress professionally, focus on the best products, give excellent service, and become trusted security consultants to their customers and potential customers.

My father has witnessed generational changes since the early days of Hardware Sales, ALOA and NLSA (later known as SHDA.) Joe Falk of Hardware Sales was a member of both organizations and helped start MMLA (Michigan Master Locksmiths Association). The older generation of Joe Falk, Harold Hoffman, and Ben Silver led to Milt Goldman and Al Hoffman and Bill Silver. Leaders from the older generation such as Sid Schwartz of Security Lock Distributors and Dick Clark of Clark Security Products gave way to the next generation. Today, Ron Weaver from Accredited Lock Supply has his children ready to take over his company and Dan Floeck of H.L. Flake works with his son, Jeff, a young member of SHDA. Al Hoffman passed on IDN-H. Hoffman to his family and now Karen is president, a board member of IDN, as well as president of SHDA. I can only wonder if her two sons and daughter will join her company sometime in the next decades.

Like so many others who ran family businesses, my dad has faced both the joys and tragedies of families. He and my mom celebrated when their daughter, Leslie, married Bruce, and then I married Judy in the 1980s. But they also weathered the deaths of my dad’s youngest sister, Shirley, his father, and was struck with tragedy after going to a Detroit Tigers baseball game in July, 1982. Less than a half mile from his home, a young driver slammed into the passenger side of his car, and my brother Kenny died a few hours later. Like Sam Solomon of Hugo Solomon and Sons and Jack Laufer of IDN-Canada, my parents had to face the death of a child, the bitterest of losses. We would never know if Kenny would have worked for IDN since he was only 13 at the time but my brother had the right instincts to be a very good businessman. A few years later, my father also survived the loss of IDN-Hardware’s veteran outside salesman, Ramo Belletini, as well as his brother, Sid, whom he worked with for many years.

Although my dad was only 63 when he retired in 1994, his leaving the intense stress of full-time leadership may have extended his life. He was able to enjoy spending time with his four grandchildren, Kyle, Ilana, Marlee, and Karenna and didn’t have to worry much about IDN-Hardware Sales. Still, he periodically visits and walks around the company, still aggravated by sloppiness and mistakes. Yet today, he is wiser and when he gets too angry or frustrated, he can go home to my mom, the real boss of his household.

My father and I have witnessed a lot in our years in the locksmith industry and have lived through many ups and downs. But I am grateful that he gave me a chance to work with him and succeed on my own. The economic environment was pretty lousy in 1978 when inflation was high and optimism low but that didn’t stop him from allowing his son to join him. We had many arguments, didn’t agree on much, and I caused him much aggravation. Yet, we deeply respected each other and made me eventually realize that love and respect is what is most important in a family business.

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