Changing Times

Our shop always had a pot of glue sitting on the workbench. At one time suitcases were all simple wooden boxes. Presto locks were very popular and a small assortment of different luggage lock sizes and finishes was all that a locksmith needed to enter the luggage repair business. Add a few parts like split rivets and the only other accessory required was that pot of glue to fasten the inside linings back into place after the repairs were made. Packing trunk lock replacement was equally as easy.

Another regular item in our shop was a caldron of boiling water mixed with large quantities of Arm & Hammer baking soda. We regularly repaired a few door closers each day. A small investment in an oversized vise and a few specialty tools made disassembling door closers an easy chore. All pot-style door closers had similar construction. It took only a few minutes to pull the shaft and piston out and boil them clean in the hot water solution. After re-assembly and a fresh coat of paint, door closers were ready for another decade of trouble-free usage.

Car dealers knew we were automotive lock experts. Like clockwork, there would always be a few unknown cars parked in our lot each morning. Dealers put notes through our mail slot explaining what needed to be done. Jaguars, Fiats, Chryslers, they all had some weakness in lock construction. Once it became known that we could make lasting repairs, dealers beat a path to our door.

Specialty repair jobs such as door closers and luggage filled gaps between the real bread and butter locksmith assignments. The impressive 20-foot-long key board in our shop indicated that we were there to fit keys and work on locks.

Luggage has gone high-tech and packing trunks are passe’. Pot-style door closers have been almost completely supplanted by modern door closer versions which are less easily disassembled and more likely to just be replaced instead of repaired. Automotive transponder programming is viewed by many car dealers as an attractive internal profit source.

So what is left for locksmiths? For every door that closes, two new ones open up. My father never heard of ADA, HIPAA, JCAHO, fire door inspections or anti-ligature hardware. Even if you never explore the possibilities in commercial access control, single door electronic push button locks, electronic cabinet locks and electronic safe locks are all in demand.

The public has been trained to depend on ATMs and charge cards. Electronic locks use similar procedures and there are millions of door openings just waiting to be rehabbed. The difference is that it now takes a little more sales ability to inform the public of what we can do.