L.H. Webb paid $600 for the Central Key & Safe Co.
in 1922. The shop had been a thriving Wichita
business at the northwest corner of Second and Market Streets since 1903, and Webb operated his business at the location until his heath in 1946. At that time, ownership passed to his four daughters, Norma Keller, Dorothy Sudnor, Ruby Trice & Margaret Phelps.
The new owners built their present shop at 305 North Market in 1953. Although the company was incorporated in 1967, it is still family owned.
Much has changed though. In the early days, Central Key & Safe Co. sold sporting goods, repaired fishing tackle, restrung tennis racquets, put new tires on tricycles and traded in umbrella repair. One of Margaret Phelps' (who has been the most active sister in the management of the business) favorite memories is the sample book of gorgeous silks from which customers could select coverings for their umbrellas.
In the 30s, Central Key & Safe Co. would be kept especially busy after a "safe gang," a tightly organized group of professional thieves, would pass through the area. Now safes are more secure, and the shop has specialized in security systems - the sporting goods department went with the arrival of discount stores. With three service trucks, Central Key & Safe Co. makes repair calls on safes
all over Kansas
As might be expected, a security-related business is not without its excitement. Central Key & Safe Co. has been called to help a car owner who had somehow locked himself in the trunk. Employees have found themselves trapped between rival parties in a divorce, one calling for a change in the locks and the other angrily demanding a set of keys. On one occasion, Central Key & Safe Co. repairmen were hauling a safe back to the shop for repair when the tear gas vial protecting the safe broke in the middle of a Wichita intersection. Naturally, they abandoned the truck.
Now, with the advent of the Information Age, a shop which once sharpened ice skates offers computer safes.