For Jack and Vikki Flam, going through an identity crisis is nothing new.
“We constantly laugh with our customers,” said Vikki through her one-of-a-kind chuckle. “We joke that this place should be called Flam’s Lock and Talk.”
While , located at 4545 Van Nuys Boulevard, has not taken fully to the idea of transforming into a reality gossip shop, Jack and Vikki have never shut their eyes to the reality that constantly shifts around them.
That willingness to evolve has contributed greatly to the success and longevity of Flam’s Lock and Key, which is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary of being in business, every year spent in the heart of Sherman Oaks.
“Each decade brings different things to our business,” Jack said. “It’s always a matter of us learning and changing and growing in order to make the needs of the next generation.”
The Early Days
Jack’s father, Sam, founded the security shop in 1952, and at age 10, Jack began working at the shop.
And since his days as a youth, Jack, who is now 63, has seen firsthand the struggles and triumphs associated with operating a family-owned business across separate generations of customers and different economic periods.
“Over the years, I can remember my father saying, ‘Tighten your belt because it’s going to be tough for awhile,’” Jack said. “There were many days that were very difficult.”
“We’ve had to change who we were,” Jack said. “In the 50s, we were a small shop and we mainly ran emergency security calls. As time grew, we became more of a commercial company. We kept on changing and growing.”
During his early years at the shop, Jack developed relationships with customers that he still maintains to this day, a large aspect of what he says makes business enjoyable.
“When you have customers that knew me as a pre-teen, and are still clients to this day, that come in and give us hugs and kisses and ask about the family, it keeps it small town,” Jack said. “It’s still nice. You’re not just making a key for them, you’re a part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”
There was another relationship that Jack developed as a teen, one that also continues to lighten his daily work grind.
“You can say we were childhood sweethearts,” Vikki said. “We’ve figured out how to make stuff work for a long time.”
The Evolution of Flam's
Jack and Vikki were married in 1970 and purchased Flam’s Lock and Key from Jack’s father in 1980.
And similar to Jack, the personal relationships that Vikki, 61, has developed with longtime customers is what inspires her to show her face at the shop on a daily basis.
“We have a passion for what we do,” Vikki said. “We might have the job title of security professionals but what we do is protect lives and property. How cool is that?”
“I think that’s the reason we wake up every day, especially now and in the past five to ten years, as businesses have become more impersonal,” Vikki said of her personal relationships with customers. “We have customers that come in every day. They’re so grateful that something hasn’t changed, that something still exists that’s familiar to them.”
Over the thirty years in which Jack and Vikki have operated Flam’s Lock and Key, much has changed in the world of business, such as advertising over social networks, and in the security arena.
Today, Jack, who began mastering the art of security when dead bolts were still rare, has now turned his focus to electronic security, which was a glimmer of the imagination when his career began.
“At our age, we’re still learning,” Jack said. “If you don’t evolve, you perish.”
Vikki’s focus over recent years has been the social networking arena, including Facebook and blogging, both of which she admits have pushed her to take several professional courses.
“It is harder for our generations to learn it,” Vikki said laughing. “If our father’s were alive right now, they wouldn’t recognize any of this.”
Reacting to the Recession
Despite their overarching success, the recent economic downturn dealt a blow to Flam’s Lock and Key, which is essentially a real estate driven business.
“People aren’t moving out of commercial buildings, people aren’t moving in and out of homes, so there’s been a big change,” Vikki said.
Fittingly, according to Vikki, it has been customers that have expressed more worry than the Flams have during the recent recession.
Fortunately, longevity has equaled financial success for Jack and Vikki, who have traversed the economic downturn with their doubts, but never with an inevitable fear of closing.
“At my age, when I still see a business around that’s been in the community a long time, and there’s not a lot, there’s a sense of relief,” Vikki said. “I can’t imagine, or I won’t allow myself to imagine, Flam’s not existing.”
However, both Jack and Vikki understand that as their ages continues to creep forward, their priorities in life must also undergo a transformation.
Retirement is not a thought far from the mind of the city’s longest tenured security professionals.
“If we had our fantasy right now, like all baby boomers, we would be here by choice,” Vikki said. “We’re not here by choice now. But if it were by choice, we’d probably still be here three or four days a week.”
“We’d like to slow it down a bit,” Jack said. “It’s only this year that I stopped coming in seven days a week. I want a life, too, and enjoy my senior years with my wife and children.”
That slowing down process would not equal the demise of Flam’s Lock and Key, but involves a passing of the guard from Jack and Vikki to the employees that they regard as family.
“We’d mentor the next generation of employees that we adore and love and that are careful with our clients,” Jack said of his future plans for the shop. “We’d help them get to a point where they could take over the business. But who knows in this environment if that could be. But that would be the best of all scenarios.”
“But no one knows what it’s going to be," Jack said. "All I know is no matter what, we’ll be here tomorrow.”