By Dylan Deprey
Chris Jones knows his way behind a key cutting machine. He knows the differences between the standard KW1 and SC1. From car keys to house keys, he cuts with more charisma then a Walmart kiosk. Whether there is a line to trace or not, he guarantees every key will fit, and all for the price of a dollar.
After working behind the counter at the Ace Hardware downtown location for 10 years, the store closed its doors and Jones was in search for a new job. He decided to buy two of the key cutting machines he worked with over the years and started his own business.
He was introduced to his key supplier through his former employer and was getting blanks for low prices. For two years his business, Chris Keys “The Home of the Dollar Key” grew along with other small businesses in the Milwaukee Mall near 21st and North.
“A lot of people would come in from places like Ace Hardware and Walmart and their keys didn’t work,” Jones said. “So, I decided to give back to my community and sell them for a dollar.”
Along with a growing business and social media presence, people began recognizing him around the neighborhood.
“When I was out in the community handing my business cards out, people would be like, ‘Aren’t you that guy from Facebook with the dollar keys?’’’ Jones said.
The Mall changed hands in mid-March for a new redevelopment projects and tenants had to be out by July 31. With the word of the Mall closing and no specific plan set in motion for relocating businesses’, he started searching for a new location on his own. He tried several spots on the South Side and had a couple hits, but no takers.
While driving near 38th and Villard, a ‘For Rent’ sign caught his eye. He checked it out, signed the lease and moved into the new location on September 15. He said business has picked up faster in the past month than the last year at the Mall.
“Business is going pretty good, and the signs catch a lot of people,” Jones said. “But, I still have people who remember me and the original sign from the Milwaukee Mall.”
Though his small business competes with larger chain stores and other hardware stores, he is working to create a family business that helps out the community. His sons are currently learning the ropes at the new shop and he strives to keep his prices low.
“People are usually shocked when they check out,” Jones said.
He said that he hopes people can afford the simple luxuries whether it is a glow-in-the-dark cup holder ashtray or a Hawaiian breeze car freshener.
“Prices are high on everything right now, so I try and keep them as low as I can,” Jones said. “It makes me feel good that I can help the community out, but also grow as a business because it’s the consistency.”
Although he has just settled in at his Northside location, he also has his eyes set on the Southside and hopes to expand his business to other communities.
“If one person can save a single penny, that can change everything,” Jones said. “This gives me a chance to give back to my community.”
For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/chris.keysz.1