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Scott Brouk, second from left, is the manager of the new Clements Lock & Security on Cherokee Street in Saint Louis, Missouri.Greetings! My name is Scott Brouk (second from left), and I am a lifelong parishioner of Saint Wenceslaus Church in Saint Louis, Missouri. I went to my parish school for grades one and two, and I remember how cool it was to actually run home for lunch because I lived just a block away (and I still do!).

The Early Years

I finished my grade school years at Notre Dame Elementary, a consolidated school on the campus of Saint Francis de Sales Parish. From there, it was high school at Saint John the Baptist on Delor Street. I was mostly an average student at best. Looking back, I wish I had applied myself more than I did. Some of my classmates and I used to refer to school as the “slave house!”

After graduating (by the skin of my teeth) in 1982, I really had no plan of what would be my career. I followed my older sisters, Rae Ann and Sally, in working for Ponderosa Steak House on Hampton Avenue. My baby sister Laura broke with tradition, but by then Ponderosa was gone and she was the only one of us to go to college.

The Ponderosa job lasted less than a year, and then I took some time off. I got a job as a temporary worker at Dolgin’s (which later became Best Buy) filling orders and contouring chairs. My job was to remove glue from the base of the chairs before they were painted. The boss asked me one day if I could do the painter’s job, and I said, “Yes.” Later that same day, I was laid off work! It took me awhile to get over the disappointment.

One day in April of 1985, I was told of another opportunity, and this was for a manager of a video rental store. The store’s name was Disc-O-Video because it housed one of the largest collections of laser discs (anybody remember those?). These were larger than a record album and needed a special player to view them. We also had VHS tapes.

Becoming a Locksmith

This business was owned by Joe Clements, Sr. In October of that year, the business went under, and Joe asked me if I would be interested in becoming a locksmith. He told me that the lock shop was on Arsenal, only a couple of blocks from my house, and it was in business since 1973. I told him, “Yes!”

My true mentor at Clements Lock & Key really wasn’t Joe, but it was a man named Ronnie Kannewurf who still is in the locksmith business. He was very patient with me as he taught me all the aspects of being a locksmith. Sadly, he quit a few years after I started because he wouldn’t sign a S.O.P. Contract (Standard Operating Procedure). Hard to believe, but I recently found the original contract I signed in 1987! Ronnie’s departure was a big blow to me, but I stuck with the job.

The business really began to flourish. At one point, we had seven or eight people working full time in the early 1990s, which included Joe and his wife Paula. Joe and Paula are both military veterans, and Joe served in Vietnam. They initially met when they were stationed together in Virginia after the war, and they got married only one week later!

As the years passed, the business only consisted of the three of us. In 2010, I began to have chest pains for the first time. It was so bad one night that I called 911. The medical staff checked me out, and my blood pressure was high, but I was okay. I went to my doctor for a physical examination, and he thought the problem was esophageal spasms. He asked me if I exercised, and unfortunately, I did not. This motivated me to start becoming more active.

Shortly after all this, Joe had a heart attack! The surgeons had to do a quadruple bypass and insert a pacemaker. But in pretty short order, he recovered from it. I began to go out on business calls with him, and whenever we finished a call, Joe would tell Paula, “The dastardly duo have done it again!”

Death of the Patriarch

I received a call on New Year’s Day 2018 from Paula, and she said that Joe had a stroke. Paula was actually able to diagnose his symptoms, and she saved his life. I ran the shop by myself because Paula was with Joe pretty much all of his waking hours.

As the months slowly went by, Joe’s recovery did not look promising. I would pray the Rosary for him every day at work. Still, there was no plan in place for moving forward with the business. However, in early April, I got a call from Jason Deem, a real estate developer on the south side of Saint Louis, who was our best master key client. He said that he would like to buy the business, and I said, “I'm all ears! Please give Paula a call.”

Sadly, on April 29, 2018, Joe passed away. Another month or so went by, and I was still in the shop by myself. Jason was the new owner by now, and he came up with a new location for the store at 2626 Cherokee Street. We decided that opening day for the new location would be on Wednesday, August 1.

New Life for a Small Business

Now that we had a plan, the real work began! By the grace of God, the move began on Friday, July 27, and we opened right on schedule. I asked Father Jim Wasser, the pastor of Saint Wenceslaus Parish, to bless our new store, and he did so on Friday, August 17. This is a very special date for me because my dear mom, Marie Brouk, died 11 years ago on this day.

Less than a month later, on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, we had a wonderful turnout for the Grand Opening Party for the new and improved Clements Lock & Security at 2626 Cherokee Street.

When I look back at everything that happened this past year, I honestly believe that the key to success is to put your full trust in God because He always has a plan! Sometimes it just takes awhile for it to be realized.

If you live in Saint Louis, or if you are just visiting, please feel free to stop by Clements Lock & Security and enjoy the many shops and restaurants located in the great Cherokee Street Neighborhood: www.clementslock.com and (314) 865-2242. After all, keys made by humans work better!

P.S. The patron saint of locksmiths is Saint Baldomerus, a monk of Lyons, France who died in 650 A.D. Saint Baldomerus, pray for us!

+JMJ+

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