Susan Martin's job always unlocks a smile

Female locksmith crashes barriers to run her business
September 4, 2017

Susan Martin is rarely seen without a smile on her face. She has a close relationship with her faith, loves her life and her job. It's only fitting that her business would be called Happy Locks.

She even has a happy car complete with eyelashes on the hood and a “Toy Story” Woody doll hanging from the back bumper.

After losing her job when the economy hit a rough spot, she started working with a locksmith in 2008 and then opened her own business in 2011. “I had to reinvent myself,” she says.

As one of the few - if not the only - female locksmith in the region, Martin says she has seen a little of everything over the past nine years - good and bad.

While most would think that unlocking vehicles would dominate her time, she said it's about 50/50 between unlocking vehicles and houses.

She's unlocked cars and had people put their keys inside and close the door as she stood there, locking the keys inside again.

One of her most interesting calls came from Delaware State Police. “They are usually very serious when they call me, but for this one they were laughing,” she said.

A man without any clothes on had locked himself out of his house as he went from the bathroom where he was ready to shower to the garage. “Luckily, he found an apron to cover himself with,” she said.

Besides unlocking vehicles, houses and even campers and hotel rooms, Martin puts in deadbolts and re-keys locks for people's homes.

“Many times those re-keys are to keep out family members, a violent spouse or an ex,” she said.

Martin said the best part of her job is meeting people. “I meet some of the wealthiest people in the world and some people who have just lost a job. Rich or poor, just about everyone gets locked out of something at some point,” she said.

She also learns a lot from her customers. “We may not always agree on religion and politics, but I'm always learning from people I meet,” she said. “And no two days are ever the same.”

During the interview, her cellphone went off several times. “This phone is attached to me. I don't know how locksmiths did it without cellphones,” she said.

Martin said being on call 24/7 can have its downside, especially when she wants to take some time off. “When I get a call, I feel obligated. That's my downfall because I push myself too much,” she said.

To get time off, referrals to other locksmiths are part of doing business in their world. It took her awhile to break into the male-dominated business, but she has earned their respect.

Under normal circumstances, unlocking most vehicles and other door locks takes only 30 seconds to a minute. But when keys are locked in the trunk, that could end up as an ordeal. On some occasions, she's had to take the back seats out to get into the trunk.

She is quick to answer the hardest car to unlock - a Sebring convertible.

And the easiest? “For some of the older cars in the 1960s, you only have to slide the window down to get at the lock,” she said.

Martin lives in the Angola area with her husband, Mike, and the couple has two grown children. She grew up in Lewes - her maiden name is Friend - with deep roots in the community. When not working, she participates in mission trips through Crossroad Community Church.

No, she doesn't carry a brick in her car as a last resort. “I tell people I carry a hammer,” she said with a smile - of course.

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