On Lock

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A Savannah landmark has the keys to success

Photography courtesy of Bradley Lock and Key Shop

STEPPING INTO BRADLEY Lock and Key Shop, in a faded, brick storefront on State Street, is like stepping back in time. Dusty skeleton keys, time-worn iron locks, an 18th-century cannon and a large church bell from 1901 fill the main room. Framed photographs of the Bradley family mingling with gen­erations of notable Savannahians line the walls. The shop is a piece of Savannah history that has served customers with the same tailored, reliable service for nearly a century.

After more than 90 years at 24 E. State St., not much has changed at Bradley Lock and Key Shop, but there’s a fresh face behind the counter. Andrew Bradley, 24, now helms the shop, bringing new life to the family business, which first opened (in a different location) in 1883.

Bradley is the grandson of the shop’s revered patri­arch, William Houdini Bradley, known as “Dini,” who was the face and personality of the lock business for decades. He earned his nickname from iconic escape artist, magician and locksmith Harry Houdini, a friend of Dini’s father, Aaron Bradley.

Generations of Savannahians have stopped in at Bradley Lock and Key Shop, getting keys made for their home, or outfitting their businesses with new locks. If they didn’t have money to pay for their keys, Dini would just smile and tell them to come by the shop another day when they could settle up. “He was always willing to help anyone out,” Bradley recalls.

A glimpse inside Bradley Lock and Key Shop during the 1950s

Andrew Bradley and his siblings began working summers in the shop at a very young age, and have seen clients who hung around Bradley Lock and Key Shop as children when their parents needed keys return as adults, ushering in a new generation of customers.

The shop also was known as Savannah’s premier gunsmith for about 50 years; Dini’s brother, Eddie Bradley, worked on a variety of new and antique firearms before retiring in the early 2000s. That cannon on the counter? A holdover from the shop’s artillery past.

Dini Bradley passed away in December. Support from friends and colleagues poured in after his death, Bradley shares, noting he traces the longtime success of the business back to his grandfather’s knack for establishing personal, meaningful relation­ships with customers.

“Seeing the way the community just loved on our family after my grandad passed away was amaz­ing,” Bradley says. “Half of Savannah must have been at his funeral.”

A dusty bronze plaque affixed to the counter cap­tures the spirit of the eccentric lock shop: “There is no other place anywhere near this place that is just like this place. So, this must be the place.”

With a new Bradley in charge of the storied Savannah key maker, the young shop owner says he hopes Bradley Lock and Key Shop remains the place for generations — of his family and of Savanniahans — to come.