It’s the kind of place you don’t think about until you need it, and the kind of place you don’t appreciate until it’s gone.

On March 31, after 45 years of holding down a small storefront on the corner of Farwell and Lafayette, old-school locksmith shop Badge Lock & Key (2000 N. Farwell Ave.) will close its doors for good. The shop’s owners, Mike Sughroue (left) and Jim Keihl (right), are retiring.

“It got to a point where age and too many health issues added up,” says Sughroue, 68. “The wives said, ‘You guys gotta hang it up.'”

“I want to be able to do something when I retire and not just sit there,” laughs Keihl, 69.

In a time when businesses seem to turn over every other week, Badge Lock & Key has been a steadfast and unassuming presence on the East Side for nearly a half-century. Offering professional locksmith services ranging from key copying and lock repair to deadbolt and high-security lock installation, the business has been quietly doing its thing since February 1978.

“My dad knew the guy who used to own Badger Lock & Key down the block,” Sughroue says, referring to a location now occupied by yogurt joint Yo Factory. “He had me working there part time, on weekends and afternoons during high school. Once I graduated I started full time. We eventually needed more help. [Jim] is my wife’s cousin, so I got to know him and hired him on. We’ve been together ever since.”

Sughroue and Keihl soon opened Badge Lock & Key a few blocks north. (“The owner bought this building in January 1978. We were the first tenants he rented to,” Sughroue remembers.) Located near the equally long-running Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli, Badge quickly made a name for itself by offering “top-of-the-line locksmith services for your residential and commercial needs.” During the ’70s and ’80s, however, it offered an additional service.

“In the early years we even did photo processing, one-hour photo,” Sughroue says. “Then digital photography came along and kind of put a damper on that. Nobody uses film anymore!”

The area surrounding Badge Lock & Key has experienced plenty of change over the years. Sughroue and Keihl can recall numerous neighborhood businesses that have come and gone: restaurants, liquor stores, comic book shops, coffee shops, barbershops, cab companies, a travel agency that was raided by the FBI, and more. And then there’s the corner or Farwell and Lafayette itself.

“We’ve seen our share of accidents here on the corner,” Keihl says. “We saw the building across the street get hit by vehicles a couple of times. Thankfully no one ever hit our building.”

But the memories that stand out most for Sughroue and Keihl involve the lifeblood of their business: the people. And those people have changed, too.

“Some people come in here and say, ‘Oh, I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I’ve been coming here since my mother used to live down the street,” Keihl says. “We’ve seen a lot of people that grew up in the neighborhood, who were here for years and years, and then it’s like, ope, now they’re gone.”

“We loved the job, loved the people, loved talking to the people coming in,” Sughroue says. “It was kind of like an old bar without the alcohol, a place to talk and solve problems.”

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Coming soon: The glorious return of Koppa’s deli

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.