Locksmiths in the news, and it’s about a trusted and honest locksmith (not a scam artist) – we love these articles!!!
An excerpt from MySuburbanLife.com
Featuring Larry’s Locksmith in Bolingbrook, IL
Akin has successfully managed the mom-and-pop lock shop out of a small structure on North East Frontage Road since buying it from the company’s namesake — Larry DuFrene — in 1977.
DuFrene started the business in 1969. It’s business is the oldest licensed business in Bolingbrook, as evidenced by the certificate hanging in his shop, along with a few knick-knacks and posters you wouldn’t normally find in a big box hardware store.
Among those are a banner promoting the 2005 Chicago White Sox, and a wall hanger extolling the virtues of an “authentic Irishman” for hire who’s willing to story-tell, dance, sing and serve as a drinking companion.
The business license is a prized possession, Akin says.
“Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, the village didn’t issue business licenses. When I heard the village was going to start, I made sure I got in line before anyone else and got the first license issued,” he said.
The shop has moved around over the years, but its always provided keys and locksmith services, from cutting new car and house keys to installing hardware and helping stranded motorists get into locked vehicles.
Successfully managing a small family business has had its share of lean times, but Akin said the business has thrived because of consistently good, professional service, and word of mouth.
“We don’t get into promoting ourselves on Facebook, or through the Yellow Pages,” he said. “We are licensed and bonded, do a good job, and we get along on word of mouth from our customers.”
In fact, the shop’s white vans are one of the more visible forms of advertising, he says, as well as his own countenance — Akin is the company’s own virtual corporate logo, wearing his signature baseball style cap and sporting a long ponytail.
“He is so recognizable around town, everybody knows him,” said Carol Penning, village clerk and longtime Bolingbrook resident. “He has become a fixture here in town, is a household name. He has done a lot of work for the fire department and police department, so he is very well-known around village hall.”
The growth of Bolingbrook from a sleepy, bedroom community of about 10,000 residents in the 1970s to a crossroads of commerce and a population exceeding 70,000 today hasn’t hurt his business either.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a good, solid customer base over the years, from residential to commercial customers,” Akin said.
He said the shop survived economic downturns in the 1970s during the gasoline shortage, and business “wasn’t great from about 1973 to 1979 either.” The start of the 1980s was difficult, and “1992 wasn’t the greatest, nor 1999, not to mention the most recent downturn over the last few years,” he said with a laugh.
Akin said he became interested in locksmithing in his teens, when he traveled to Chicago to help his grandmother run her locksmith business.
“No one grows up saying they want to be a locksmith one day,” he said. “But even when I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t really have a vocation, and one day I just realized I really liked doing this type of work.”
By 1972, he was working for DuFrene and learning the trade. By 1977, he was the owner of Larry’s Lock Service.
“Larry wanted to become a fireman for the village, and he made me a good offer, so I bought the company,” Akin said.
So how does the business survive in the face of a rapidly changing set of economic circumstances, not to mention the intrusion of big-box hardware stores?
“Anybody can cut keys and do this work. But not everybody can do it right,” Akin said. “We do it right, and are licensed and bonded.”
Meanwhile, the decline in the housing market didn’t shake the business to its roots like other businesses, he says.
“In bad times, people still need keys and locks for their homes and businesses,” he said. “When times are tough and people are moving out of their homes, the locks need to be changed. And when times are good and home sales are on the rise, people need new locks and keys when they move in.
“In a way,” he pointed out, “we are insulated.”
Today, Akin runs the shop with his son, Robert III, who said working in the family business has both its perks and drawbacks.
“If I need a day off, I can call dad and let him know, and we have it covered,” Robert III said. “On the other hand, it isn’t easy faking it to get a day off, either.”
With his son helping run the show, the business continues as it always has, serving customers with new house keys to helping those locked out of vehicles.
Has Akin ever locked himself out of his car?
“Of course,” he said. “But I always had a second set of keys.”
$55 Cost of service call to car for unlocking/opening
$60 Per hour charge for installation of hardware
$50 to $100 Charge for state-of-the-art transponder keys
If you go
WHAT Larry’s Lock Service
WHERE 550 E. North Frontage Road, Bolingbrook
INFO (630) 739-5666