From Inventor to Innovator: KEY-BAK’s American Dream

Feb. 1, 2016

When you think of a maintenance or janitorial worker, a security guard, an IT professional, or a hospital nurse, you probably can envision a key or badge retractor on their uniform. This often overlooked product is an everyday essential to many hard working people around the world. The company who invented them, West Coast Corporation, has a  for just about every professional that carries keys, ID badges, or small tools for work. West Coast Corporation’s original product line, KEY-BAK, features high quality key retractors that were originally designed out of necessity, but now West Coast Corporation is the leader in innovative, top quality products, designed to make it easier for working professionals to lead more productive lives.

The First KEY-BAK

As a switchman on the Pacific Electric Railway in Los Angeles, Calif., W.R. Lummis saw railway workers injured when their dangling keychains were caught on moving trains. Lummis had an idea for a reel that would keep keys within reach at the wearer's side, safe from snagging on moving rail cars and machinery. His idea became the first KEY-BAK.

Lummis sold the first KEY-BAKs to his fellow railway workers, and eventually began selling to locksmiths in the Los Angeles area. News of this helpful product quickly spread, and sales continued to grow, allowing Lummis to leave his job at the railroad and devote all of his time to manufacturing KEY-BAK key reels in Pasadena, Calif., incorporating as West Coast Corporation.

The company's proximity to CalTech and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories led to early adoption of new technology resulting in rapid improvements to the key reel design. The Original KEY-BAK quickly earned a reputation as a high-quality product engineered in the USA with only the best materials.

In 1985, the employee-owned company migrated to a larger manufacturing facility in Ontario, Calif., where they design and build the USA-made products that millions of people worldwide depend on daily.

Product Lines Designed for the Working Professional
Today, KEY-BAK products are still manufactured with the highest quality materials, and have been rigorously tested to over one million pulls. Superior to any other key reel on the market, KEY-BAK expanded to making products for specific job applications, allowing for a full line of tailored key and badge retractors for almost every profession. All retractors are designed to prevent drops, loss, and damage, delivering peace of mind and convenience. Best of all, they come with a lifetime service policy from the (rightly so) proud employee owners at West Coast Corporation.

The Original KEY-BAK, with its classic look and top performance has been a trusted product of countless professionals since 1948. The Original KEY-BAK comes in textured chrome or textured black vinyl, and has an all-weather stainless steel chain, or a durable Kevlar cord that features excellent wear resistance. In addition, each unit comes in a variety of lengths and retraction forces, extending 24-48” and carrying up to 22 keys.

For those who need a little more strength and durability, the heavy duty Super48 retractor is the one of the toughest built products on the market, and is perfect for those who work in construction, facilities and maintenance, casinos, or hospitality. Housed in a sturdy polycarbonate case, the key reel features a patented ball joint locking mechanism, keeping keys secure and adding even more strength. It holds up to 22 keys on a durable Kevlar cord, keeping keys and small tools accessible and secure.

For those looking for durability as well as a lightweight option, the SECURIT key retractor is a great choice. With a Kevlar cord or stainless steel chain that extends 24-48”, this retractor holds up to 13 ounces  of keys and small tools. The aluminum carabiner clip easily attaches to belt loops, vests, or bags. This retractor is the top choice for office professionals and transportation workers who carry many keys and appreciate the versatility and strength of this product.

KEY-BAK’s MID6 retractor is a smaller, more discreet key reel, ideal for daily use in offices, universities, or service industries. Featuring a tough polyester cord and durable polycarbonate case, the Mid6 holds up to 10 keys with an extension up to 36”.

The Sidekick, a new product in 2015, has quickly become a top seller due to its versatility, as well as its compact, yet functional form. People, especially in an office setting, want a product that will hold their keys and other small items (like a USB drive) as well as their ID or security badges. The durable polycarbonate case makes the product strong, yet very light, and the zinc alloy carabiner conveniently clips onto belt loops, bags or purses, keeping the Sidekick always accessible, yet secure. The twist-free end fitting keeps ID badges from flipping, and the split ring holds up to five keys or other small items.

The MINI-BAK is the smallest and most discrete KEY-BAK product, and is the only US made retractor of its kind. It is the preferred retractor for people who work in hospitals or offices to display their ID badges on their uniform, or have them readily accessible. Like all KEY-BAK products, the key reel has been tested to over 1 million pulls, exceeding any other key reel on the market by by over three times. The MINI-BAK comes in 14 color choices, and offers a split ring end fitting for keys and small items, or a vinyl strap for an ID badge.

KEY-BAK’s Duty Gear and Tradesman Series product lines feature the Original KEY-BAK retractor and offer tough products created for rough usage. The Duty Gear line includes key silencers and uniform protectors for those in law enforcement and security, and use the finest quality leather and ballistic nylon to hold up against wear and tear. The Tradesman Series genuine leather pouch fits pliers, box cutters, or other small tools to help mechanics, electricians, or construction workers keep all their essentials on-hand and safely secure.

Throughout 2016, KEY-BAK will continue to release exciting new products to enhance the lives of those who use keys on a daily basis. Stay tuned for the latest innovations.