Text by Emily Alberts
Photos by Always and Forever Photography
Brian’s Lock & Key is a family business which owner Tom Flinchum bought in 1989. “Purchasing the company from Brian Behal and his wife, Pam, was a decision that transpired through friendship and shared core values,” he says. The Behals knew that Flinchum and his family would keep the same business pattern. “We didn’t even change the name.”
Flinchum added the trademark white lettering to its one-of-a-kind, faded blue, 1995 GMC box truck that has become their calling card. Anyone who has lived in Blacksburg for more than a year has probably noticed it. People often ask, “How many blue trucks y’all got on the road? I see them everywhere!” Amazingly enough, it is still just the one. The aluminum body means it won’t rust, and it is like a billboard on wheels. It goes everywhere from Roanoke to Wytheville, throughout Giles County, out to Floyd and all over the New River Valley.
The business is on South Main Street in Blacksburg near TNT Property Management, which Flinchum has owned since 1983. “There is no big box store feeling here,” where wife Debbie has served as office manager and bookkeeper since 1996. She is also the compliance officer to make sure the business is run and maintained according to the guidelines of the Department of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS). All locksmith employees have to be certified through DCJS.
Their son, Talmadge, 27, has been there since he was a kid standing on a box to reach the counter. He loves learning about locking systems. “The book is this thick!” he says as he makes a claw shape with his hand. “We pride ourselves on solving just about any security problem you can imagine.” Indeed, whether it is fixing a lock problem, re-keying doors, changing locks or recommending a whole house or business security system, Brian’s Lock & Key is knowledgeable and skilled in every aspect of security. They offer key control systems in a range of prices and lock systems from your basic Kwikset to Schlage and Entek and the most secure locks of all, Medeco.
Talmadge works closely with his brother-in-law, Derwin Sutphin, the only Certified Registered Locksmith between Bristol and Roanoke and a member of the Associate Locksmiths of America. Sutphin’s wife, Regina, works a couple doors away at TNT.
“We are a service company,” says Sutphin. “My boys think I am a super-hero,” he laughs. “When I get called to a lock-out in the middle of the night, he knows I am out there helping people, and it’s a good feeling.” Sutphin is definitely on top of his game. He once cut a key just by eye-balling its shape through the window of a locked car door.
Specializing in automotive, residential and commercial lock and key services, the folks at Brian’s Lock & Key know that as smart as our cars have become, people still lock their keys inside. “I am not sure everyone knows what anti-theft actually means,” says Talmadge. And they know that sometimes our crazy canine friends accidentally push lock buttons with their paws. Being a college town, roommates often lock each other out. New businesses want dependable security systems, and as long as that large, blue truck is on the road, Brian’s Lock & Key is serving the NRV community and beyond, 24/7.
Personal and business security management comes down to common sense, which may not be that common anymore. People want convenience, and it often comes at the expense of security. “Take combination locks, for example,” Talmadge explains. “They are super easy to operate, and you don’t have to worry about a key. But, you have to remember the combination, and they are battery operated. When the battery dies, there is no lock we can pick for you. We have to drill out the whole unit and replace it.”
When running a small business, there are no shortcuts to success and no replacement for quality service. Brian’s Lock & Key has become a trusted fixture in the NRV community.
Emily Alberts is a New River Valley freelance writer and frequent contributor to NRV Magazine.