A longtime downtown Akron business is unlocking a new chapter in its 105-year history.
J.R. Shoup LLC is relocating its locksmith business from its small building adjacent to the Akron Children’s Hospital campus on West Exchange Street to a new home in Market Court on West Market Street.
The hospital is acquiring the property on Dec. 31 as part of its expansion plans. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Owner and President Jan Harrington, 67, of Akron, said the new rental location will be slightly larger and easily accessible for J.R. Shoup’s downtown customers, which include city and county maintenance workers.
“We wanted to stay close to where we were,” she said.
After 25 years running her own business, Harrington has found the key to success.
Since she took over J.R. Shoup in 1988, Harrington said she has strived to make customer service a priority. She likes the challenge of finding parts for old locks at churches and other aging buildings that no one else can fix.
“Sometimes, they’ll come to us when they’ve run out of places to go,” she said.
Randy Rose, supervisor in the building maintenance department for the city of Akron, has been using J.R. Shoup for about 20 years to repair locks and replicate keys for city-owned buildings.
He said he likes the inventory, turnaround and professionalism at J.R. Shoup.
“When you have 40 buildings and that many doors or desk doors or file cabinets and you multiply that times all those buildings, we’re probably there three times a week,” he said. “If I took it apart and tried to figure it out, I could probably waste two hours. Or I could drive over there, give it to them and have it fixed in 20 minutes.”
J.R. Shoup, the grandfather of Harrington’s ex-husband, founded the businesses in 1908 on Water Street near the O’Neil’s department store. Shoup stayed in the original location until 1942, when O’Neil’s acquired the property to build a parking deck.
The locksmith then moved to the 800-square-foot building constructed in 1917 that originally housed Henry Hull’s Hamburgers. According to family legend, Shoup walked into the hamburger joint with a paper bag full of money and bought the building.
When Shoup died in 1946, the business was passed down to his stepson, Harold Dauchy. Dauchy’s wife, Lucille, then ran the company for 13 years after he died in 1975 to keep the business in the family.
Harrington and her then-husband, the Dauchys’ son, Tom, bought J.R. Shoup in 1988 and ran the locksmith business along with another company they owned, Alert Fire and Safety Equipment in Cuyahoga Falls.
When the couple divorced shortly afterward, Dauchy retained the Cuyahoga Falls business and Harrington got J.R. Shoup in the settlement.
“I didn’t know a thing about locks, except how to use a key,” she recalled. So she studied trade magazines, became familiar with the industry and researched new products and trends.
“You wouldn’t think locks would be that interesting,” she said. “But they’re all different. It is never boring.”
As electronics and keypads became popular, she began selling and servicing those products.
She focused on growing the commercial customer base, rather than the time-consuming, low-margin residential work, such as assisting locked-out homeowners.
J.R. Shoup’s three lock technicians and two office workers now serve close to 1,000 customers, including Realtors, management companies, churches, governments, hotels and nursing homes.
Akron Children's Hospital entered into an option in November 2009 to buy the property at a future date as part of a master plan for the downtown campus, said Lin Gentile, vice president for professional and support services.
Initially, the property will be used to provide onsite, surface-lot parking for patients’ families and staff, she said.
“We’re not sure what our needs will be from a growth perspective, so any chance we have to gather some adjacent property, it makes sense to do so.”
J.R. Shoup will close to walk-in customers at noon Dec. 24 but continue to serve clients from its mobile vans. The new location at 575 W. Market St., Suite 6, will open at 8 a.m. Jan. 2.
Harrington said although she’s ready to move, she’ll be sad to leave the memories behind.
“It’s been a good little building,” she said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or email@example.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.