Shopkeepers' Stories - Katy

Katy started her locksmith business in San Francisco in 1969, and describes how she took a long-distance course… without the Internet!

“It was called a correspondence course. They sent me the lessons in the mail, so I would do the lessons and send it back. For example, they would send me a lock to pick, so I’d pick the lock and send it back to them in an envelope. Then I’d receive the next lesson and assignment in the mail. There was no schedule, we could mail it back whenever we were ready until we finished the course.”

When you work on a street for decades in a global city like San Francisco, you witness massive social changes such as gentrification. Katy says: “The people who used to be in Mission are really feeling…. shoved out, in a way.”

“In the late 60s, early 70s, there were homeless people, prostitutes, you don’t have a lot of that now, we still have gangs, and a lot of junkies. But it’s gotten worse. It’s funny because this whole area here, the Mission, is now ‘the place’ to be. It is the center of everything. All the Silicon Valley kids like coming here, it’s all about “the Mission”.

It’s moved down: it used to be Valencia, and the street before that is Guerrero. In the late 70s and 80s, you didn’t want to move past Guerrero, Guerrero was really nice. Then, in 2000, it moved down to Valencia, and it’s gradually worked itself down to the Mission.

But the people who used to be in Mission are really feeling… shoved out, in a way, because all the people come in, and buy up all the houses, and the rents… you might be renting a place for $1,200, and now it’s $3,000, it’s terrible.
Shopkeepers' Stories - Mission

Keys, beauty salon, Burmese food, cigarettes, and self-defence: all in a corner of a street

But to say that this corner has never been worse, is true. From one side you have all the new people coming in, the yuppies, the new folks, at my front door, and then on the other side you have old folks who are being pushed out… they are getting backed up right against each other at this corner.”

Is it a good thing that the Silicon Valley crowd is moving in?

“Sure. Sure. Things can’t stay the same. They really can’t. Time is a glacier, it’s always moving, you can’t stop it. Time does not stop. I choose to believe that. I worry about things that I can do something about. I don’t spend any energy on things I can’t do anything about. I’m in charge of taking care of my space, that’s as much as I can do here. If I can’t do anything about it, why spend my energy on it?”

Katy described the anxiety that her customers feel after witnessing how effortlessly her locksmiths pick their locks to get them back inside. She advices her locksmiths to be more sensitive to this issue.

“I tell them: when you go to that little old lady’s house who got locked out … do not get her into her house in 20 seconds, because she will not be able to sleep for a week when she sees how easy it was for you! It’s not a question of taking a long time so you get to charge her more. It’s a question of her peace of mind.

Otherwise, the poor little old lady, they’ll come to me and say: “My locks are no good! He got me in so quickly!” I’ll say, umm, it’s not the locks, those are actually pretty good. If someone wants to break in, they won’t pick the lock, they’ll break the lock. Do theatre, do some theatre. Otherwise, it’s terrible– they can’t sleep.”

Shopkeepers' Stories - Mission

How many regional cultures can you spot on this street?

Business Advice

“Know your customers’ names. I worked in a department for a vending machine company. The newest person knew absolutely nothing, but every guy would line up in her line, and wait for her. She took forever to help them, and I could never figure it out. I could take care of them in 14 seconds, they’d be in and out. I’d call them over, and they’d say: “No no no, we’ll wait.” It’s because when they walked up, she said “Hi Sam!” “Hi Phil!” “Hi Fred!” It was huge! It was huge! They loved it. It’s very important if you have returning customers to know their names.”

“I’m the one you want on the island.”

“I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but I can fix anything. I can tell you how anything works, but I can’t dance, can’t sing, can’t draw, nothing with art. When you line up when you’re born, I didn’t get in that line. I didn’t get any of the arts, but I’m the person you want on the island. When the big onecomes, you want to be wherever I’m at.”

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