Keys to the city
A little shop with a lock on heart and history
Published: July 27, 2011
They've gotten Tigers fans into their locked cars, only to find out they're broke. They let them go on their word. One showed up at the shop a few days later and not only paid his bill but also brought a case of beer as a thank-you.
"It always comes back, you know, good karma," he says of the occasional free work. "You get it back if you give it."
Wyatt sits by the front counter early on another weekday morning, watching the line of customers bringing in busted locks, worn keys, cars needing alarms. He can sit wherever he wants, in front or in the back. He's royalty here.
He still raves about the party they threw him days before. "We had weenies, they had a nice cake, they had some beans, salad — ain't that nice? Oh, it was real nice."
Wyatt came to Detroit from Memphis when he was 22, and became the personal chauffer for the Stroh beer family for 30 years. "All the big shots," he says. "Drove them all around everywhere." Later he became the maître d' at the renowned London Chop House, handing coats and ties to those who dared to arrive underdressed.
"Tell you what," Danny shouts, grabbing Wyatt's shoulders. "You see a finer fellow, you bring him to me. Ninety-eight years old, still going strong, baby! He's a living legend here in Detroit. This dude drives around in a Focus and talks on his cell phone while he's driving."
As the legend sits in the owner's office, a busy Fred comes and goes, back and forth. "Fred, I ain't in your way, is I?" Wyatt asks him, softly. "No no, buddy, you're never in my way," Fred replies. And Wyatt's face becomes a sunburst.
The owner's kind deference to this man who adopted this place and was in turn taken in by them shows he's officially become part of the fabric here, enough to merit a birthday party just for being around here so long. He's become one of the guys.
"See that?" Wyatt says, looking fondly at Fred and the others crowded in the back. "You can't beat 'em. I love all of them."
Detroitblogger John is John Carlisle. Send comments to email@example.com.
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