Dec. 16--STOCKTON -- Business started very slowly for Charles Skobrak Sr. after he opened a one-man locksmith shop on North Stanislaus Street in downtown Stockton, Calif.
"The first month, I made $86," he recently recalled. Even in 1962, that was a starvation wage. But after a newspaper salesman convinced him advertising could help get the word out, he built a trade and reputation that has outlasted dozens of competitors.
"There's been over 50 locksmith businesses going out of business in San Joaquin County in the last 50 years," Skobrak said, adding that he'd stopped counting a few years ago.
So what explains Day & Nite's longevity?
Putting the customers first and fulfilling their trust, which is particularly important when it comes to protecting their families, businesses and property.
"It's customer service," said Steve Skobrak, Day & Nite's president and Charles Skobrak's son. " 'The customer is always right' has always been my dad's motto."
And that sense of integrity extends to Day & Nite employees, too, Charles Skobrak said.
"We treat everybody like family," he said. "You have to trust in the employees and have hope they trust in us that they're secure in their jobs."
It is a family business. Besides son Steve, who has run the day-to-day operations since 2000, Charles' wife, Donna Skobrak, has been a fixture in the shop since shortly after it opened and, more recently, the family's third generation is getting involved.
Day & Nite offers a full slate of consumer and commercial lock, key and security services, including installation and maintenance of burglar and fire alarms, fire suppression systems, security cameras, installation and moving safes of up to 6,000 to 7,000 pounds, electronic chip car keys and servicing back vault doors and safe-deposit boxes.
It's a long way from Hungary, where Charles Skobrak first became familiar with locks and keys while working maintenance for a factory with 5,000 workers.
He fled his native land in 1956, however, among the hundreds of thousands of others escaping Soviet repression in the form of Moscow's tanks and soldiers in Budapest crushing the short-lived revolution.
"After that, we had to get out of there," Skobrak said. "Without outside help, there was no way you could beat those guys."
He shortly found his way to Stockton, where he worked for another locksmith for five years before opening his own shop.
It's hard to believe, Skobrak said.
"Time goes so fast, you don't even know 50 years have gone by."
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or [email protected].
Copyright 2012 - The Record, Stockton, Calif.