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Community spotlight: Larry West

He holds the key to unlocking difficult situations

March 30, 2016
By John Morton (jmorton@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Q: You operate Beach Locksmith. Tell us how you got involved in this business?

A: "In 1978 I was 19 and a driller on an oil rig in Oklahoma. I had knee surgery and then a second knee surgery three weeks later. I was on crutches for nine months. The doctor told me I would be off work for a least a year - turned out it was almost a year and a half. I took a basic locksmithing course just to have something to do with my down time and wound up really enjoying the work. I started to drop by the local lock shop about once a week and read trade publications that he had and after about a year he put me to work. After a year and a half I got a job in Tulsa with a large company called Holders Total Security. That's where I got most of my training. I was there almost 10 years. I then moved to Florida and started to work at Koons Locksmith from 1992 to 1997. Then I was the shop manager for Armor Locksmith until 2005, at which time I purchased the Beach Locksmith."

Q: OK, admit it... you've locked yourself out of your truck or home before, haven't you?

Article Photos

Larry West poses with his business truck.

A: "Yes, but only once I now carry two sets of car keys with me at all times. On my home I use passage knobs and good quality deadbolts. This makes it very difficult to lock yourself out because it takes a key on the outside to lock the deadbolt when you leave. The knobs don't lock, so you can't just push or twist the button and close the door and lock yourself out."

Q: Your truck is a rolling workshop. Tell us about the guts of it and what it entails.

A: "My truck is a complete shop. I have a 3,000-watt inverter to run the electrical, four key machines, grinders, drills, shelving and cabinets to hold locks, key blanks, and small parts. It's very functional. When Hurricane Charley came here, I was without electricity for five days and used the inverter in my older truck to cook meals on a hot plate."

Q: Not that we are suggesting you do it, but are you a master at picking locks?

A: "I use my picking skills almost every day to open doors or to get a lock apart when no key is available. I'm pretty good, but used to be better because I use to practice every day."

Q: Any classic stories to share about the turbulent life of dealing with those locked out of something?

A: "Oh my - lots of stories, some funny, some sad, and some frightening. The scary ones usually involve a divorce or child custody case. The most scary service call was back in Bartlesville (Okla.) about a year after I got started in this business. I was rekeying the locks for the husband and I was almost done when two women walked through the front door and started screaming at me, saying 'What are you doing in my house?' The wife only made it about 10 feet into the house when her husband came out of a bedroom with a pistol. She started backing up, tripped and fell into a glass coffee table breaking the table and falling to the floor. He put the gun to her forehead, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger - it went click. Luckily the gun wasn't loaded. The police were called and about two-and-a-half hours later I finally was able to leave this call with the husband paying for the call and the wife getting the keys."

Q: Many keys say "do not duplicate" on them. Do you ever get inquires about this?

A: "Yes. When I started back in the 1980s most locksmiths honored the 'DND' stamp on keys. Over the years, key-blank manufacturers have made more high security or restricted key blanks. So if you want a key that can't be duplicated or is highly restricted, you can now get that very easily. If someone with a key that says do not duplicate wants a duplicate, there is a good chance they will find someone to make it for them if it's a normal key. I have had people grind off the DND lettering and try to get a key made that way. I personally will only make a DND key for an individual if they have a letter on company letterhead from the property the key goes to. I will usually make a DND key if the person is a Realtor or property manager that I'm familiar with, and they still have to sign a form or invoice."

Q: Is your business easy prey for misrepresentation?

A: "Channel 2 News' troubleshooter did a story about a guy that was using my company's name and overcharging people - he is not a real locksmith, just a scammer. If you call a locksmith and someone shows up in a unmarked car, truck or van, send them away. I have spoken to many people who have been ripped off by these scammers. Please make sure you are using a real locksmith. If you would like to know more about these scams, just Google locksmith scams. Find a local locksmith before you need him or her that you like and put their phone number in your phone so you will have it when you need it. If you are looking online, please be careful - a lot of the companies listed online are not local locksmiths but are call centers who could send out someone you don't want to meet."

(Community Spotlight features a resident each week who has an interesting occupation, activity, or story to tell. Please submit subjects you feel are worthy of some recognition to editor John Morton by calling 765-0400, ext. 102, or by email at jmorton@breezenewspapers.com)

 
 

 

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