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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York City

Chances are, you’ve noticed Greenwich Locksmiths in your travels through the West Village. It occupies a small storefront just south of Commerce Street on one of the stranger parcels of land in Manhattan…


And though it’s been in business since 1968, it really hasn’t changed all that much. Compare the recent picture above to one taken in the 1980′s…


Then, last week, I received a letter from attentive reader Jonathan Burr, urging me to take a closer look at the building, as something had changed. I went by today – and was absolutely blown away.


From a distance, it looks like a bunch of golden squiggles and spirals have been added, snaking whimsically across the facade. But get a little closer and you’ll find the real magic…


The new design is made up entirely of keys:


Literally thousands…


…and thousands…


…and thousands of keys, twisting into wonderful assortment of swoops and twirls.


The key facade was designed and installed entirely by owner Phil Mortillaro back in October, and I can’t tell you how beautiful it is up close.


It almost feels like the locksmith version of a Pollock painting – tens of thousands of keys seemingly strewn about haphazardly, yet in the mess, patterns emerge.


More spirals by the awning:


In the top corner:


Even the inside of the door got the key treatment…


I love the spiral below, almost like a bronze-colored licorice wheel -


…around the mailbox…


One enormous key overhead…


…and more on the side:


Feeling tired? Have a seat on Mortillaro’s hand-made chair out front…


…which has gotta be one of the coolest chairs in New York (if not necessarily the most comfortable!):


The seat:


Mortillaro has apparently been looking to make his building more distinct for quite some time. On the Greenwich Locksmiths website, I came across a NY Times article revealing that, in 1991, Mortillaro reached out to an architect to redesign the facade. “What can I do with this place? It looks like any building on Queens Boulevard, I’m proud to be an American, I’d like you to make this a real American building.”
The architect came up with this:

Holy…crap. The Landmarks Preservation Commission gave its unanimous approval, and according to the article, Mortillaro was set to begin construction in 1992…but ultimately, he decided against it. “It would have been more Disney World,” he said in an interview.

I for one would have loved to see that transformation, but I’m just as happy with Mr. Mortillaro’s gorgeous key art. I urge you to check it out next time you’re in the West Village.

And while there, why not get a key made? Now more than 40 years at it, Mr. Mortillaro is a Village institution, and is said to be one of the best in the business. Apparently, a sunglasses store offered to buy the building to “help him retire,” but he declined. “This is retirement to me…When I die, this will go too.”
Special thanks again to reader Jonathan Burr for pointing this out. Be sure to check out his writings on beer for