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How The LockFather Started Locksmithing | "It was tough for a long time"

Out of all the videos I've done with LockFather, I have not talked about how he started locksmithing. So, I figured to hear and share the story of how he got into locksmithing.



PJ: So if you got to take us back, what year, how old were you when you started locksmithing?

Pete: Well, I wanted the business in '80, but it was '78 - '79.

PJ: Okay

Pete: I was just 22.

PJ: So you're 22 years old, and before you were locksmithing, what were you actually like doing for a living or jobs?

Pete: Right. I was a foreman in a bulk mailing house where I kept the equipment running, plus keeping the guys, making sure they were running their equipment correctly, and the job's done.

PJ: Okay.

Pete: She's stuffing envelopes by machines and putting the labels like The Rolling Stone magazine. We did all those for the whole United States.

PJ: Okay. And we should say this is in Southern California?

Pete: Yes.

PJ: At the time. So you're doing that. Did you have any other jobs?

Pete: Yeah, I was pumping gas so I could earn money to buy equipment for locksmithing and -

PJ: So you're doing bulk mailing?

Pete: Right.

PJ: And you were pumping gas outside of your normal full-time job? Up until that point, did you ever really hear about locksmithing? Was it ever on your radar or like, before you heard that I should say, what were you thinking about doing in life, like for career?

Pete: I knew I wanted to be self-employed because I get stressed out to the hill doing the bulk mailing because it's time-sensitive stuff.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And I got, geez, let me make money. And, you know, that's why I knew I was going to be, but when I was pumping gas, one of my girlfriends went to high school with came in, and he was in a locksmith man. And I go, "Oh, what's this? This looks pretty cool." And he told me all about it, and he goes, "Man, I make more than most of the school teachers." I am like, "Really?", you know? So he said, "You know, if you want, you can ride around with me." It was on Saturdays; if I weren't working, I'd ride around.

PJ: This day where I was going out doing jobs, lockouts, making keys, rekeys.

Pete: Show them, and watch them and ask questions. And he was always more than willing for me to come around and do it.

PJ: Okay. And then -

Pete: We would stop and get Tommy's burger and then goes cousin's bakery and pick out. What's better?

PJ: Okay, so that was going on. Now, of course, I was born in '84.

Pete: Right.

PJ: So all of this is happening -

Pete: -before

Country Lock & Key - 1980


PJ: -before. And so, at some point, you decided that you wanted to start your own locksmithing business. What was the thought process behind that? What did that look like? Where you're like, I need to get some schooling. Like, tell us about that.

Pete: Yeah, my mom came home and said, Hey, I got a card at this key booth, and they have a locksmithing school, and I am like Oh. She goes, that will be perfect for you because you're good with your hands. I am like, I don't know, mom, because of the reading and writing. I hate that stuff.

PJ: Yeah

Pete: I still do, but finally, when I talked to him, it was three hours three times a week at night at the school, and they gave you the basics of basics.

PJ: Yeah. And then something's better than nothing.

Pete: Right. And then driving around with Brad Specter. Hi, Brad, if you're out there! He still is a locksmith today, and he got in touch with me because he saw one of the videos where I was when he went to change drama. But he was courteous enough to let me drive around with him every Saturday.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And I mean, all day.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And he taught me a lot of stuff I still use today. I mean, I teach my people many things he taught me.

PJ: Yeah, it'd be fun to get Brad on camera and kind of like talking to him about the Pete he knew at 22.

Pete: Yeah, pretty crazy.

PJ: Yeah, that'd be fun.

Pete: Yeah.

PJ: So you're doing that, so you go to the school. You're still working on the book mailing.

Pete: And pumping gas because I needed a truck, so I went to the junkyard because I couldn't afford much. I bought an old '66 mail, like a UPS truck, rebuilt it from the ground up, and had it painted and leathered.

PJ: Yep. Is it kind of like a cream color?

Pete: No, it was the yellow one.

PJ: Yellow. Okay.

Pete: And then after I outgrew that, I got the cream one.

PJ: Okay.

Pete: And, you know, it worked out well.

PJ: Okay, and so you get kind of everything ready. At what point are you like, okay, I need to quit my job and make a go with this?

Pete: Right. I finally did that, quit my job. Mom was working where she had health insurance and whatnot for her. And I said, Well, we don't have any bills. So Mom says, why don't we do it now. And so that's what we did, mom worked, and I sat at home waiting for that phone to ring, but I didn't quit until I got in the yellow pages. And when the Yellow Pages came out, I quit my job and went forward. So I just wasn't sitting there. I saw an income, praying that the Yellow Pages would bring me income.

PJ: Okay, so you signed up for the Yellow Page ads, but you know, it's always like a season or two before when they come out. So you signed up, you did that, and then you worked until the launch essentially of this year's Yellow Pages, and you timed your notice with that? Okay, so you did that, you're out on your own, and was it just like, boom, magic, busy making all the money?

Pete: I wish. I sat home and watched Oprah's talk show, bored to death. And then I got some jobs during the weekend or the week, but I lived on the ranch, so I had to travel a little way to get to them.

PJ: Yeah. Cool. It's an excellent point to bring up. So you were actually like a ranch hand on a 1000 acre ranch.

Pete: Right

PJ: Which is now all developed in the LA area, so you were doing the mail job, pumping gas, and something we haven't talked about was that you lived on this 1000 acre ranch and had to do a lot of the duties.

Pete: Yeah

PJ: Right? Take care of the horses,

Pete: Horses, they had a 30-acre private park with big events, okay. And then big companies would run in, and I go clean up or get it ready for.

PJ: Gotcha. Okay, so you're doing all of that. So you had a lot of stuff going on?

Pete: I work 20 hours a day minimum.

PJ: Yeah. And so you're sitting on the ranch, and you have your own business now watching Oprah, hoping that phone's going to ring soon. Still doing your... I'm guessing like, did you do the work on the ranch is like trade to live there type of thing or?

Pete: I paid 75 bucks a month after I quit working on the ranch as such.

PJ: Okay.

Pete: I still did stuff for them.

PJ: Gotcha. Okay, so you had all that going on. At what point did all of a sudden you start getting some income?

Pete: While getting a job here and there, I didn't have accounts like CLK or wherever. So I ran it out of my pocket, so I always had a ton of cash on me because when I went to the supply house, you had to pay for it.

PJ: Pay right there.

Pete: And, you know, supply houses 40 miles down the road. It's not like, in the big city, away sometimes. And you know, you never figure out, well, I need this, this and this—your time to get it and stuff.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And that's where UPS is great, FedEx, whatever. And you get it the next day, and you have a credit card, but when you have no credit card, no money to spend, you have the cash to speak of, and you go okay.

PJ: That's how you did it.

Pete: Yeah, that's all I could do.

PJ: You name the company Country Lock because you lived in the country on the 1000 acre ranch.

Pete: Right.

PJ: Right.

Pete: My mom says that's a stupid name. Why don't you call it Valley? I didn't want to call it Valley. Your mom says we're calling a contrast it, yes, dear.

 Country Lock & Key


PJ: Okay, there we go. Okay, let's fast forward a little bit because something big happens. And that is, so we're in Southern California. I'm born - '84-'85. And you decide to move to Idaho.

Pete: Yes

PJ: Right? Now, what did you do with the business?

Pete: Well, I sold the business with the understanding I could take half of the stuff -

PJ: Of the equipment?

Pete: Right? In stock and move to Idaho. And because of the little ranch house we lived in, you were in a small crib, and there still wasn't any room in Idaho at that time. I could afford a home.

PJ: Yeah

Pete: Where, down there, you know, they're outrageous. Even more so today.

PJ: Sure.

Pete: And so we moved up here.

PJ: And so you moved up to Idaho because you felt like you'd be able to buy a house.

Pete: Set a place to raise my kids. I felt I could afford a home.

PJ: Yeah, and your parents had moved up here for retirement?

Pete: Right, and they said, Well, you can afford a house. That's why I came up.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And you know, so I got a tiny 220 square foot shop.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: My parents got it. Oh, absolutely big, isn't it? I said, No. Well, you got too much stuff, they always said. I said, "No, I don't. I don't have enough."

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: So I ran it. Some days, I didn't make a dime. So I go, man, I don't have any money to feed my family. I got to get a nighttime job, so I worked at the local newspaper.

PJ: More like both mail tech stuff?

Pete: Yeah, because both mails, you insert stuff into magazines, insert stuff in the envelope, while they needed somebody to insert flyers into the newspaper.

PJ: Okay.

Pete: So I took a nighttime job there and work from six to three in the morning. And then I went home, tried to sleep for an hour or two, went to the store, my desk, I could lean my head back on to the workbench, put my feet up on the desk and go to sleep. I had a little ring or dinger, you know?

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: If somebody came through the door, I hope I wake up.

PJ: And you know, I mean two memories for me back when I was small, but I remember close to where your shop was a hardware store. And you had become like excellent buddies at the hardware store. I remember going there and sitting there hanging out. And I also remember going to on the weekends to auctions,  that you were like holding stuff—ring guides.

Pete: You see somebody bidding, you know, yeah.

PJ: Okay. Yeah, just doing that.

Pete: I'm a clown anyways, and everybody liked the entertainment.

PJ: Okay, so you put a little show?

Pete: On a whole 20 bucks, the whole day didn't help, but I enjoyed it. Free food.

PJ: Yeah. So when you moved up here, it was tough. You move. You got reestablished. Was it tough?

Pete: I'd say the first three years were tough. I thought we were going to go under.

PJ: You did?

Pete: Oh, yeah. Even refinance the house, took a second to do hopefully-

PJ: - is buy time.

Pete: Right. And then, all of a sudden, it just blossomed and has done well ever since. It just keeps growing.

PJ: Absolutely.

Pete: But it's a struggle, but I was determined to make it, to make everything work. The wife would get upset because she had you guys, didn't see me because I was trying to make a living. When it was slow, I went to all the businesses giving my cards; I was like, Hey, I'm new in town, if you ever need anything, and eventually it worked out.

PJ: Yeah

Pete: I'm not. I'm not an idle type of person anyways. I got to keep busy.

PJ: Okay, yeah. Okay.

Pete: I got to be moving all the time. And it just worked out, and thanked God because like if the mom to go out with her girlfriends because she needed to get away from you and your sister.

PJ: Yeah

Pete: Right? I can understand.

PJ: Me too.

Pete: And you know, I take them on the job. You guys are on the job, and your sister was two years younger, so she's crying and screaming because she can't see me, and I'm unlocking this car. And the lady comes. They are all cute little kids. As a dad, the wife wanted out for the night, and I had to do it, but I still needed to make money which gave us an extra 20 bucks way back then, and I was good.

PJ: Yeah, I mean, I remember so much of my childhood in your Ford Aerostar the '93.

Pete: Yep.

PJ: Right? I still remember going with you to get it at the dealership, and the number of jobs ran in that thing, sitting down on the weekends.

Pete: You were shocked then.

PJ: You know, you know my kids to this day, they're like Dad, you don't listen to a ton of like country music but like anytime a song goes on like we know that you know the words. I'm like, that's what you get for your rider if your dad was doing jobs all the time, hoping because you always split the tips with me.

Pete: Yeah, we got tips. So here are 20 bucks. Why don't you take your son and get a pizza?

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: And PJ's into pizza.

PJ: Yeah. And so, we always split the tips.

Pete: Yeah. And then your sister would go if you have something else to do, so I could spend time with you because it was vital that I could make a living.

PJ: Sure.

Pete: Yeah, and then once we did well, I spent a lot more time with you guys because you got employees, all your basketball, baseball, whatever you guys did. I was always there.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: So I want to be self-employed to do what I want.

PJ: Yeah.

Pete: But at first, the company-owned you.

PJ: Yeah. And even seasons as it goes on. When you own a company that's going to take over your life

Pete: This time of year is always a little slower than during spring and summer at where we are.

PJ: Yeah

Pete: But it can be challenging, you know? Cause you're going to struggle, you're going to get discouraged. Always be positive. Know you can do it. Move forward.

PJ: Absolutely. Well, perfect. Dad. Thank you for sharing the story. To everybody, I hope you enjoyed and I'd love to know any feedback or questions you have. Thank you, and we'll see you next time.

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