Patience a ‘key’ to success

Rosalez Lock and Key provides service

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Monica Sortedahl, of Fort Dodge, works on making a copy of a key at Rosalez Lock and Key Service. Her father, Dave Rosalez, also of Fort Dodge, looks on.

Patience is just one skill Monica Sortedahl learned from her father, Dave Rosalez, a longtime locksmith in Fort Dodge.

“I used to get so frustrated and never had any patience,” Sortedahl said. “And he’s so patient.”

When a difficult task would arise, Rosalez didn’t immediately offer his help, according to Sortedahl.

“He would say to walk away for a minute and come back and look at it like you’re putting a puzzle together,” she said. “I would get so mad at him because I would ask him to help me and he would tell me to figure it out.”

“Once you figure it out, you’ll never forget how to do it, and he was right,” she added.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson A collection of keys and locks are displayed at Rosalez Lock and Key Service.

For almost 50 years, Fort Dodge residents have tasked Rosalez with unlocking various items or finding keys for devices that no one else seemingly could.

Rosalez’s temperament helps him take on those challenges.

“I had in my mind that I am the one in control,” he said. “If there was a problem and it was difficult, it had to come from me to capture the thing.”

Sortedahl said her father always had the right mindset.

“He never raised his voice,” she said. “Never got upset about anything. Always calm, cool and collected.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Dave Rosalez, a longtime locksmith in Fort Dodge, holds up a spring used in farm equipment at Rosalez Lock and Key recently. At one time, Rosalez completed an order of 300 of these springs. He made them all by hand, he said.

Rosalez, a United States Navy veteran, began his business, Rosalez Lock and Key Service, in 1969. The shop is located at 1621 Third Ave. S.

Prior to that, he worked at Kautsky’s, a sporting goods shop that was located in downtown Fort Dodge.

He started there in 1963.

“I got into it way back then through the VA because I got hurt in the service,” Rosalez said. “They were looking for something to get me into.”

At Kautsky’s, he modified guns, sharpened hunting knives, and worked on safes.

After starting his own business, Rosalez’s first big job was making safety deposit boxes for banks.

“He made those by hand, with a file and a magnifying glass,” Sortedahl said.

Each one would take about an hour and a half, Rosalez said.

“Once it was opened up I would have to drill it open, patch the door, and make keys for it,” he said.

“And when he was done you couldn’t even tell he had drilled there,” Sortedahl said.

Rosalez often took on odd jobs.

He made springs used in farm equipment.

“My first order was 300 of these springs,” he said. “Hand made.”

He had no shortage of work.

“There were so many things they couldn’t get done, so they brought them to me,” he said.

“Go see Dave, they would say,” he said. “Needless to say, I never ran out of something to do.”

Rosalez is a lifelong Fort Dodge resident. His parents immigrated to Fort Dodge from Mexico.

“Grandma and grandpa came here from Mexico and they made their lives here,” Sortedahl said. “They had good jobs.”

Rosalez’s father worked for the Fort Dodge Des Moines Southern Railway.

Oftentimes, Rosalez and his seven siblings would create their own playthings from scrap.

“We made our own toys,” he said. “So we never had to go looking for something, we just made it”

Sortedahl credits her parents and grandparents for their resourcefulness.

“I think that’s where it comes from,” she said. “We make most of our own tools here.”

Sortedahl, a 1987 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, now owns the business, which is something she said she never planned on doing.

“I got married and came here in 1994,” she said. “I hadn’t really planned on staying.”

But about a month later her sister, Diana Rosalez, who had been working at the shop, died in a motorcycle accident.

“I was helping out my sister when she worked here,” Sortedahl said. “After she died, I stayed. I never planned on doing this.”

The landscape of the job has changed as technology has advanced through the years, according to Sortedahl.

“Everything is a lot more technical now,” she said. “A lot of electrical stuff, we don’t get into a whole lot.”

“We did lose quite a bit of business over the years when the computer age started coming and everything started being access control with the cards,” she said. “A lot of those run to a computer system somewhere and they know who is coming and going and what time. A lot of big businesses have gone to that, and we don’t do that.”

Still, the business offers a variety of house locks, locks and keys for mailboxes, motorcycles, cars, mailboxes and other specialty keys.

Sortedahl also secures large buildings such as schools.

“Everything is a lockdown facility anymore, so you have to buzz and there are cameras to see who is coming and going,” she said. “I go in and replace the whole system.”

“The majority of the stuff we do is commercial, but we do a lot of residential too,” she added. “Mostly drilling doors to install deadbolts and making replacements.”

Her son, Jody Lewis, runs the day-to-day operations at the shop. He also helps her prepare for specific jobs.

“Jody helps me do the setup,” she said.

Rosalez stays busy at the shop helping people with specialty items.

Most recently, a woman brought in a broken doll.

“A woman brought in a doll that was supposed to dance,” he said.

Rosalez made a key for it.

“She left it with me and I had it working,” he said. “She was so happy.”

Rosalez enjoys the work.

“I’ve always got something,” he said. “I do leatherwork. I make jewelry, belt buckles. Stuff you won’t find anywhere else.”