"The Empire strikes back at the burglar, ” professed Richard Krasilovsky, owner of Empire Safe. As the name suggests, this family-run operation develops some of the world’s strongest safes. However, this was not always the case. When Richard’s Ukrainian family opened the business more than a century ago, they focused on machinery moving and rigging, and safes were one of many items that they were asked to move. It was later that they started selling the used safes that they removed from buildings. With time, the family split the company, and Empire Safe was established in 1949 by Richard’s father, Monroe, to specialize in security. Growing up, Richard worked in the shop during summers but never thought he would end up as the next owner. Yet he took over in 1997, and under his watchful eye, Empire Safe has become involved in fascinating new projects. “I’m constantly working on creating more security solutions for my customers. ” His most recent advancement was producing lighter-weight safes that can be installed on upper floors of buildings without requiring structural reinforcement. When gold began trading as a commodity in the late 1970s, the jewelry industry became a major target for burglars. Richard partnered with manufacturers in England and Israel to create higher security safes to protect jewelers’ valuable merchandise. He even scaled down these safes for residential applications. Additionally, Richard helped develop the modular vault room industry, where vaults are made up of small panels that are manufactured in advance and then assembled onsite. These are used by banks, medical marijuana dispensaries, governments, museums, and other institutions across the globe. Overall, Empire Safe has supplied vaults for several hundred companies, including high-profile clients such as Tiffany, Cartier, Harry Winston, Bulgari, and DeBeers. “It’s wonderful to know that our products are well respected by so many. ”
Although this small yet inviting barbershop is relatively new to Midtown East, Boris Sufayev—originally from Tel Aviv and a New Yorker since 2000—has fifteen years of experience in the barbershop business, much of which he spent in his previous barbershop at Fulton and William Street. The formula to his success, however, has not changed. “You have to be a good haircutter” Boris says, “give customer service, good atmosphere, a nice cozy place. ” Perhaps most importantly of all, clients look for “a good conversation” while they are getting their hair cut. One could easily be confused by the “Shoe Repair” and “Watch Repair” signs that accompany the European Barbershop’s exterior. Yet the explanation given by the attentive-to-detail Boris is quite simple. The space of the haircutting salon used to be entirely occupied by the shoe and watch repair store of his father for twenty five years, until in early 2015 he also made space for Boris to establish European Barbershop. So one can not only come out with a dashing haircut, but with their shoes repaired and a copy of their keys for safe-keeping. And, of course, that smile that comes after a pleasant chat.
The ceiling of this long, narrow shop is studded with chandeliers in all shapes and sizes. Behind the counter, hundreds upon hundreds of keys dangle from hooks on the wall. The window display is piled with doorknobs and old telephones. “Antiques, ” Mr. Charlie told me. “They don’t make them like this anymore. ”Born in Iraq in 1935, Mr. Charlie was raised in Israel before moving to New York as a young man. He speaks six languages: Arabic, Hebrew, English, Turkish, Farsi, and “a little bit” of Filipino. The evidence of this incredible linguistic ability is scattered throughout the shop - a bottle label in Hebrew, a conversation with a client that swings between Arabic and English, and in his voice itself. His speech is soft, quick, and underscored with a hard-to-place accent. He likes to talk, maybe almost as much as he likes locks. Mr. Charlie fell into locksmithing by accident - or perhaps by fate. While visiting friends on Long Beach, Long Island, he helped one of them jimmy open their truck door in a matter of minutes. And thus, a locksmith was born. He speaks of his work like the expert he is: with the love and pride of one who knows they do a good job. “I’ve been in business a long time and never had a problem. I love to serve, to help people. ”His customers seem to return the devotion. In the back of the shop, Mr. Charlie showed me a small collection of antique Iraqi pots and synagogue decorations given to him by one of his clients, a Lebanese woman who works for the U. N. He pulled two wooden combs from one of them. “These are just like the combs my mother would use, ” he said, tracing his fingers over their hand-painted surfaces. Mr. Charlie’s own children do not share his passion for antiques and locks. With no one to take over the store, Charles Locksmith Inc. will close when Mr. Charlie retires. Without a doubt, the shop is worth a visit before its doors are shuttered for good. It is a gem of old New York, steeped in history from the antiques on the shelves to the man behind the counter.
While walking on 39th street, Manhattan Sideways team member Jon was pulled into MonKEYS Locksmith by the clever name. That name, which first made the store popular when it opened in 1982, has brought in generations of customers, many of whom have been regulars for decades. While speaking with the owner, Jeff, during the summer of 2017, we learned that he had grown up in the city, spending time in his father's successful retail business a few blocks away. His dad sold televisions and other appliances for fifty-five years. After working out of a truck and in flea markets making keys and doing security work, Jeff was inspired by his father to open up MonKEYS. He is proud to have continued his family’s legacy of retail success. He has even started working on the next generations: Jeff’s grandson helps him out around the store, making sure that their online appearance is up to date. When Jon asked Jeff, "Why do people keep coming back to the store? " he put it simply: “People like me! ” Jeff responded. Jeff is an extremely gregarious man, chatting with every one of the customers that come through his store. “You have to dedicate yourself to last so long. I did it all on my own, ” Jeff said. Jeff does all sorts of security work for his customers - changing locks, keys, and cameras for them. At the height of his business, he had twenty-five men working for him, using the company’s two vans to travel around the city. One of Jeff’s customers, who was in the store at the same time that we were, took a moment to tell us that the previous week she had been locked out of her apartment, and Jeff was able to get her back inside right away. Though MonKEYS is tiny on the inside, it has a lot of charm. The old-style price board gives the shop an authentic feel and the arrangement of locks on the walls shows off the variety of security systems that are available.