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An excerpt from Jacksonville.com
Northside Lock, Key & Safe is a family operation. Terry and Becky Kuch own it. Daughter Amanda Blankenbicker works there, so does grandson Matthew Thompson.
They’ve been on Dunn Avenue since 1994, working out of a converted house crammed full of safes, locks and walls covered with hundreds of blank keys. Thousands more sit stored in boxes. They were on Lem Turner Road before that. Locksmithing is what the Kuch family has been doing for 35 years. Tuesday, Terry Kuch came in from his first job of the morning, sipped a large cup of coffee and talked about it.
How’d you get started in the business?
Actually, my wife picked it up off her brother who was a locksmith and started it. I came into it a few years later.
Is there a locksmith school?
Locksmiths do have training classes, but the most important thing is mechanical ability. Taking things apart and seeing how they work.
Yes, but everybody thinks that’s all we do. Our basic business is selling and re-keying locks, especially for commercial properties.
When managers are let go, it’s always a good idea to re-key all the locks. Same thing when someone buys a used home. You don’t know who has those keys.
So what is re-keying?
You take the lock apart and change it so the old keys don’t work anymore, and give them new keys.
Is that cheaper than buying new locks, even for a house?
Yes, sir. Let’s say you’ve got a fancy handle set that costs $200 and your son lost his keys. Instead of spending $200 on a new set, you bring it in and we change it for $20 or $25.
Do you get into a lot of domestic situations with one person wanting to change the lock on another?
Sure. Boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parents/children. I either call the police or make sure they have. I let law enforcement make the decision. Or else they have to show me proof of ownership.
Going back to cars, I’m told you’ve got multiple tools to get into locked cars.
I’ve got a box full of them. There’s a locksmith in our business who invents tools to get into different cars.
Are they all versions of coat hangers and the Slim Jims to slide down along the window?
Yes, just bent different ways in order to defeat something inside.
What’s the average cost for you to come out and unlock a car?
About $65 if it’s local. There are places that are cheaper and some a little more.
But I went out to unlock a car for one lady who was frantic. We usually use the passenger side and when I walked over there, the window was down. I reached in and unlocked it. She was a little upset, but she paid me and I left.
Your trucks say 23½ hour mobile service. What’s that other half-hour for?
We more react to that than anything else. I may tell them it’s for lunch, or to go hit golf balls. Maybe three 10-minute meals. I tell everybody something different.
What do you do when someone calls at 3 a.m. locked out of their car?
I quote them a price and see if they want me to come.
How does the price compare to the $65?
Finally, what’s the best thing to use on a sticky lock: Graphite or WD-40?
Graphite is a good lubricant if it’s used correctly. We use it when we’re putting a lock together. But most people just squirt too much in and it creates a mud effect. WD-40 is a good lubricant. But make sure you use a lubricant and not a penetrant.
And then there was the time I went to one lady’s house to re-key her burglar bars. There was green slime coming out of the locks. I asked what happened and she said she’d sprayed Pam in there.
She figured that if it stopped food from sticking to the pan, it’d stop the lock from sticking.
How’d that work out?
About an hour of cleaning.