Monday, August 14, 2000

Locksmith comes to rescue

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's about 10 p.m. on a weekday when the telephone rings at Mr. Lock in Mount Washington. On the line is Jeanie Dotson of Goshen. She's locked out of her house.

        Within minutes, Dave Sohngen, owner of the Mr. Lock business, is in a company van headed for Clermont County. Mrs. Dotson had called 911 when she realized her cleaning lady had left and inadvertently dead-bolted the only door for which she had a key.

        A dispatcher had recommended Mr. Lock, one of the few area locksmith businesses that make service calls at night.

        When Mr. Sohngen arrives at the Dotson residence, Mrs. Dotson is waiting in the driveway. “Thanks for coming,” she says.

        While he could pick the deadbolt lock on the front door, Mr. Sohngen explains it would be quicker if he worked on a knob lock on a side door.

        Before he begins, there's one formality.

        “I'll have to ask for your ID,” Mr. Sohngen says, taking the standard precaution so people cannot get into a house, car or safe that is not theirs.

        Utilizing his lock pick tools, Mr. Sohngen has the side door open in less than a minute.

        “That was pretty pretty doggone quick — amazing,” Mrs. Dotson says.

        Mr. Sohngen, 43, was in the office on Beechmont Avenue to take Mrs. Dotson's night call. But calls also can be automatically transferred to his Anderson Township home. Sometimes, the calls hit while he's sitting down to dinner or sound asleep.

        “The phone seems to ring just when the food is good and hot,” Mr. Sohngen says. “Some nights it doesn't ring at all. Sometimes it rings all night.”

        For 16 years Mr. Sohngen was Mr. Lock's only employee. His wife and three children learned not to be bothered by late-night calls and his frequent venturing into the dark. Now Mr. Sohngen has 10 employees. Each takes a turn being on call at night.

        Mr. Sohngen got started in the locksmith business while still in high school, working part time for AB Bonded Locksmiths in Norwood.

        After graduation, he started working full time, often 80 to 90 hours a week, learning the business. In 1979, he started his own locksmith business, working out of his living room and garage.

        About a year later, he move into a former shoe store on Beechmont Avenue, where he has been ever since.

        Mr. Sohngen chose the business name Mr. Lock because “It's simple and something people can remember. Now a lot of people call me Mr. Lock.”

        Making keys was a big part of business at first. Now he also opens locks and safes and installs security systems. Most people learn the trade through on-the-job training, Mr. Sohngen says.

        He opens key locks with picks and can open safes with a drill. He opens combination locks and combination safes with an experienced touch and hearing ability.

        Interesting calls have come through over the years. “One guy didn't want to lose his combination, so he locked it in the safe — and he forgot the combination,” he recalls.

        If you have a suggestion for Night Watch, call William A. Weathers at (513) 768-8390 or fax 768-8340.


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