AA Lock & Key Celebrates their 30th Business A nniversary this year.
1986 the time before locksmiths were required to be licensed in the state of Connecticut; Dave Vessels was interested in locks. He would visit the local locksmiths picking up skills of the trade, when one day Carl Finley of Yantic CT decided he wanted to move south and offered his locksmithing business, AA Lock & Key to Dave. Dave purchased Carl’s inventory and customer list and AA Lock & Key, as we know it today was born.
The first few years were very hectic. Dave worked 24 hours 7 days a week, accepting any locksmithing job that called whether it was auto, residential, commercial or municipal. Dave was not alone in this adventure, his wife of 7 years, Debbie answered 2 phone lines, taking the information of the work needed, scheduling Dave’s day or night appointments and keeping the books, much like she does today.
“It was rough working around the clock, but we were just starting and had to take every job that called” Dave recalls. “Service based businesses – you do what you have to do to keep the business running” Debbie adds.
Dave’s first service van was actually an old bread deliver truck, which he painted white with a paint roller. Chuckling Dave remembers, “It was great to work out of, plenty of room, but not so easy to drive.” The bread truck lasted about 2 years and was replaced with a used Ford van, which Debbie and Dave had lettered by themselves.
Their first employee was Nick who joined the business when Lock King out of Groton CT went out of business. Lock King called with an offer too good to pass up: take over the Yellow pages ads and phone numbers for Lock King and he would throw in the customer list. Dave and Debbie accepted the offer, hired Nick, an already experienced locksmith, found a used van for Nick while Debbie went into labor with their second child, all in the same weekend. They were ready to roll by Monday a first employee and Friday a new baby.
Raub’s in New London was another locksmith in business at this time, but eventually closed his shop. Dave acquired inventory and tools from Raub’s including a key cutting machine that is still the primary mechanical key cutting machine used today in the shop.
The work shop as we know it today was once a heifer barn. The barn was falling down and Debbie and Dave were repairing it so Debbie’s Dad could use it for his maple syrup production. They set up one section for the maple syrup and the other section became the key work shop. The maple sugar production eventually moved, but the lock shop stayed eventually adding offices and inventory space. The old barn is now the business center and work shop where you can bring in work to be done or have keys cut while you wait.
“The rest seems to be a blur” 30 years equals about 17 employees, 3 vans, thousands of customers, 2 grown children, 1 grandchild, the addition of services and the subtraction of auto locksmithing. One thing that has stayed constant is Dave and Debbie working side by side. They really enjoy working with their customers. “Meeting people and customer interactions best part of the job, people are usually happy to see you. Solving and explaining their security needs makes you feel like the locksmith with a cape, a hero.”