Local Business a Community Player for 100 Years

By Eric Olson

February 18, 2014 Updated Feb 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, In (21Alive)--The year is 1913, Woodrow Wilson is president, the economy is booming and a young Fort Wayne tool and die maker named Arthur Koehlinger opens two new businesses in the same building on East Washington Boulevard…Koehlinger Lock and Key Service on one side, Koehlinger Toy Store on the other.

“My earliest memory was more of the toy store next door, when my dad would come down and work on weekends,” recalls Kim Koehlinger. “I had free run of the toy store to look at all the latest toys and probably mess them all up.”

Kim Koehlinger now runs the family business started by Grandfather Arthur on the same city block it’s occupied for one hundred years. Koehlinger inherited the business along with countless stories of his family’s history in the summit city. Like the day his locksmith dad was called to unclog the night depository chute at the old Fort Wayne National Bank.

“He was out there working to get all these deposits that had clogged pulling them out when the police rolled up and drew their guns on him,” Koehlinger recalls. “It created a bit of a scene until they figured out what was going on.”

Kim’s uncle Win Koehlinger probably had the highest profile in town. He ran the family toy store and was a regular on local TV with Bozo the Clown and Engineer John.

“Because that was the highlight for kids every fall in the pre-Christmas rush was Uncle Win showing off all the latest toys and bicycles,” recalls Koehlinger, “beating the drum to sell more toys for that Christmas.”

The toy store closed in 1970 and Koehlinger Lock and Key Service is now Koehlinger Security Technology, reflecting the hi-tek direction home security’s headed in. But the business still makes keys, sells and repairs all kinds of locks and sells plenty of safes. Kim Koehlinger says another hundred years for the family business, however, may be doubtful.

“I don’t know the future of small family businesses anymore,” he says, “with the advent of large mall based or strip mall bases stores. I’m gonna keep plugging away at it as long as I can and we’ll see what happens.”

Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

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