Unlocking the Puzzle at Austin Works

Nancy Stang, Locksmith and Owner, Austin Works.
Nancy Stang, Locksmith and Owner, Austin Works.

Article Contributed by
Beth Peyton

Nancy Stang has physical therapy skills, safe cracking skills, an old dog named Bee and a commitment to providing good service at a fair price. She’s everyone’s favorite locksmith at Austin Works, located at 167 E. Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood, NY. The fact that she is the only locksmith at Austin Works is just a minor detail.

She’s owned and operated the shop since 2008 when she bought it from Kevin McGill. Nancy, as she prefers to be called, is a physical therapist, graduating from Daemen College in Amherst, and didn’t know much about locksmithing when she began to consider a career change. She “shadowed” Mr. McGill to learn, and was intrigued. So she bought the place.

“There are actually similar skills required for locksmithing and physical therapy,” Nancy said. “You have to like to figure out how things fit together, and be tenacious at problem solving. I’m detail oriented, and I let the lock talk to me. And you have to have good eyesight, dexterity and patience.”

There are about 200 locksmiths in New York State, and although they are not required to be licensed as they are in some states, the intricacies and complexities of keys, electronic keys, key pads, safes and other security devices means that Nancy attends training seminars several times a year. And she maintains a network of distributors, manufacturers and other folks in the trade who call on each other with tricky issues.

“Car keys are more complicated now,” she said. “A lot of them are microchipped or transponder keys. I have multiple manuals that contain technical specs for car keys. But they’re still keys, even when they require programming.”

Nancy spends her days making keys, programming keys, going on mobile service calls when people have lost or locked their keys in their houses or cars, making master keys or doing larger projects. Most of the time Bee, a 13-year-old black lab with a graying muzzle, goes with her, or hangs out at the shop.

During an hour on a Thursday afternoon, two men came in for duplicate keys, and another man came in with an old brass lock that his wife had found in an antique store and given him as a gift. There was no key. The lock reminded the man of locks his father, now deceased, used to have.

“I’m not sure I can solve this one,” Nancy said. The look on her face showed that she was interested in the lock, and interested in getting inside it. “But can I keep it for a few days? I’ll do some research, see if I can help you.”

She emphasizes the importance of having spare keys: house keys, car keys, boat keys, bike keys, camper keys.

“It’s usually inexpensive to make a copy of a key,” she said. “But it costs a lot more to make one from scratch. It takes time and skill, and that’s what you pay for. Stuff happens to everyone. I’ve rescued more than one person whose dog locked them out of their car or their house.”

The other thing Nancy emphasizes is the importance of re-keying your locks when you buy a new house. Likewise, if you’ve done major construction and given keys out to contractors, you should change the locks when they’re finished.

“You don’t know who might have keys to your house when you buy it,” she said. “And you want the peace of mind of knowing who has keys. It protects you as well as previous key-holders.”

Electronic keypad locks, which she also sells, are another option. They eliminate fumbling for and loaning out keys.

Austin Works is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and Saturday by appointment. They’re closed Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s a good idea to call before you come, in case Nancy is out on a call. She can be reached at 716-763-0008. The website address is austinworksofwny.com, and you can find them on Facebook.

Before you know it, Nancy will be your favorite locksmith at Austin Works, too.