People we meet: Katy Lawson, the Mission’s longtime locksmith

Katy Lawson is the kind of business owner who plans to visit the store every working day after retirement.

“This is my happy place,” said Lawson, the 77-year-old who operates ABC Locksmith on 18th Street next to Mission. “It’s just a great feeling to help people… especially with things that people can’t get elsewhere. “

She helped her friend Loren Fowler open a store in 1970, and he sold it to her 16 years later. He’s one of only two locksmiths in town working on older locks, she said; the other is Warman Security at Polk Gulch.

“My store gets different things than an average locksmith store, just because I’m old: old car locks, Chevrolet 65s… something old,” she said.

The neighborhood has changed, as has the industry. Locksmiths have become scarce, and the growing popularity of electronic locks and online services such as Amazon is a game-changer, she said. Yet, aside from the pandemic, ABC Locksmith’s revenue has remained relatively stable.

“We’re kind of like grandfathered in everything,” she said.

Fifty-one years ago

Lawson had no plans for a career in the locksmith.

In 1969, she was working with coin-operated machines – vending machines, jukeboxes, pinball machines, etc. Next door, she was taking a locksmith course.

Fowler, his friend, once asked him to watch the shop while he took his wife on vacation. But he also wanted to retire, and upon his return, he convinced her to buy the business.

“So I did, and it was kind of like buying a gold mine,” she said. “It comes and goes and comes. Fifty years later, we are there.

Her favorite thing is that people only come to her when they need help. It was also fun – Lawson can use her hands and pretend she has x-ray vision to make something work, she said. She likens it to working on a car.

“You see something different every day,” she said. “Every car has an ignition, a trunk, a door, and a glove box, and every manufacturer is different, and almost every other model is different.”

When Lawson retires, she hopes to repeat the habit of her friend Fowler – he stopped by every day the store was open until her death in 1993. She calls it the perfect retirement, more fun than responsibility. to supervise the store. Its details, such as city management and business permits, can certainly be left to a staff member, she added.

“I’d be there for you to choose my brain because, I guess, when you’re as old as dirt, you’ve got something,” she said with a chuckle.

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