Still, Asheville provides a unique opportunity for a locksmith due to the great variety of houses and types of locks and security systems. Marianne describes an interesting day in which a locksmith might “go from working on a lock in a 100-year old house in Grove Park or Biltmore Forest to a modern WiFi activated electronic system in Biltmore Lake. You need to be able to adapt.
“People call because they need help. Going forward what we’re wanting to do to serve our existing customers that have been with us all these years and anyone else we can be of assistance to. But we need more locksmiths. And when they come they’ll find it’s very gratifying to know they’ve helped someone deal with a situation or even helped Grandma get out of her bathroom.”
Did she say, “Grandma in the bathroom?”
“Absolutely,” Marianne says. “I think that might have been the funniest thing I ever worked on. You know, people think some doors just can’t be locked and when the door locks it can leave them in a strange situation. That one lady was pretty ticked off.”
There have been lots of special moments in Marianne’s career. Getting a car open so a child can get out is one of them.
“That has happened a lot more than it should,” Marianne says, “but thankfully only once or twice a year. Another thing is when you’re dealing with someone who might be having issues with their safety, maybe with a boyfriend or former spouse. Maybe they trusted someone they shouldn’t have.
“Sometimes we go into a situation where the police have already been there—domestic situations where the situation is resolved but we have to button things up. Single women seem to be the ones who call us. We’ll go in and change the locks or add deadbolts. Whatever is required to provide an acceptable level of security.
“People are grateful that you’re there to help. It’s stunning sometimes to think of all the things that we do.”
Learning the trade
The pathway to licensing in North Carolina terminates in passing the state license test. According to Barton Culbreth, it takes about a year to learn the trade well enough to pass the test. Most new locksmiths start by becoming apprentices to licensed locksmiths through the Licensing Board.
“That’s the general path,” Culbreth says. “Each licensed locksmith can have up to three apprentices working for him and it’s the perfect way to gain knowledge and experience under supervision. We don’t allow any more than that because it just gets to be too hard for the licensee to keep track of them. You might have three apprentices working on three different jobs. The licensed locksmith is accountable for everything they do, so we put a cap on it.”
Another way to prepare for the licensing test is to gain experience without going through the formal apprentice program. Culbreth says that is more difficult, but some people can get the experience they need from their family business. “They apply to take the test and many of them are successful. It takes about a year of experience plus a lot of studying to be prepared for the test.
But the high points come along nearly every day. One time we made an authentic key to a 100-year old Grandfather clock. That owner was thrilled. So were we.”
In addition to the State Locksmith Licensing Board there are professional associations established to maintain high standards. The largest is the Associated Locksmiths of America which offers many member benefits and requires them to uphold a 12-point Code of Ethics.
The state locksmith exam is offered quarterly in conjunction with the meetings of the N.C. Locksmiths Association. These exams sessions are on Friday afternoon. The February and August exams are in Charlotte; the May and November exams are in Raleigh. Additional sessions can be arranged based on demand. If the state website (www.nclocksmithboard.org) doesn’t show any exam sessions scheduled when you apply for your license, simply leave that section of the form blank. The Board staff will then contact you to enroll you in an upcoming exam session.
A.L. Odom certainly isn’t the only locksmith firm in Western North Carolina, but it is one of the best. And, Marianne Odom is one of the nicest locksmiths you will ever meet.
Locksmiths & Apprentices (by county)
Total in Western North Carolina
Top 10 Reasons to Call a Locksmith
1. They pick more locks than you do, and they do it every day.
2. You’ve already locked yourself out, so how’s it going so far?
3. The cute lock-picking star from that TV detective show isn’t available.
4. The child locked in the back seat of the car has stopped laughing.
5. You don’t have a bobby pin.
6. The bent coat hanger isn’t working and you’re feeling small.
7. The keys on your key ring marked “DO NOT DUPLICATE” are duplicates.
8. The fancy home security video cameras you bought don’t keep anyone out.
9. 14 contractors and roughly 112 people helped build your new home.
10. You’re a Realtor and one of your buddies walked off with the lockbox key.