What is the key to running a successful family business for 95 years and counting?
Whatever it is, H Harrold and Sons in Sheffield seems to have unlocked the secret.
For five generations, the family-run locksmith business has gone above and beyond – and sometimes below – to provide its services.
Peter Harrold, aged 50, who runs the Shalesmoor-based business today with brother Tony and sister Diane, said: “When I was still a teenager, I got called out to a Hathersage church because they needed a crypt opening. A family was having a service in a few days’ time and couldn’t find the key.
“They’d dug down six feet, so I had to go down a ladder and open it. I just pushed the door open a little bit and that was as far as I wanted to go. They asked if I wanted to go in, but there was no chance.”
The business was established by William Harrold, in a city centre workshop, on Burgess Street.
William built up an excellent reputation – leading to work for famous escapologist Harry Houdini.
Norman Harrold, who ran the business in its third generation with brothers Terry and Gordon, said: “The great showman commissioned William to make some stage props for his act.
“However, true to his professions, William kept the tricks of the trade as secure as one of his own padlocks. Houdini’s secrets were safe with him.”
In the 1950s, Norman, now aged 74, said one or two of his jobs every week involved opening a safe which had been jammed and damaged by explosives.
He said: “They would pack butter and lard around the safe to deaden the sound then hide behind a desk or counter and join the wires which caused the explosion.
“You would walk in and the walls and ceiling were splattered with butter.
“The culprits didn’t get in often, because they used so many explosives they just jammed the safe, rather than opened it.”
Terry, aged 83, said the firm has transformed from when he began to the present day, as his 23-year-old grand-daughter, Becci, becomes the fifth generation to enter the family business.
He said: “Everybody who worked here did their jobs by hand with a file. Nowadays you put the key in a machine, press a button and it comes out finished.”
However, the firm is not resting on past success and is looking to the future
Peter said: “Next year we launch one of the biggest websites in our industry and that should be amazing for us.”
Becci, the brains behind the new website, said: “I look up to my dad and grandad and I feel that what the family has achieved over the years has been amazing.
“They have never once pushed me towards joining the business – I have chosen to come here off my own back and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
H HARROLD AND SONS TIMELINE
1919 - William Harrold set up a locksmith, whitesmith and bell hanging business in a workshop on Burgess Street.
1938 - Fire destroys the Albert Hall theatre and surrounding buildings. They are earmarked for demolition so the business moves to Rockingham Lane
1948 - The business name is changed to H Harrold and Sons as Henry Harrold and his wife Iva Alice take over
1964 - Firm moves from a workshop to a double-fronted shop on Division Street, opposite the Frog and Parrot, when security becomes a customer-facing business. Henry’s sons, Terry, Norman and Gordon, get involved
1973 - The expanding business moves to Shalesmoor, where it remains today and is run by Tony, Peter and Diane
2009 - Becci Harrold becomes the fifth generation to start work in the family business. She is later joined by her cousin, Jordan
2014 - H Harrold and Sons celebrates its 95th anniversary
YEARS OF SERVICE
53 - Longest-serving family member Normal Harrold, now aged 74, who retired in 2009
44 - Long-serving safe engineer and locksmith Gordon Ulley, now aged 71, who retired last year
33 - Audrey Reynolds, aged 81, who still works in the office once a week.
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