Greenwich Locksmith – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Greenwich Locksmith

Phil Mortillaro uses keys to bring art back to the Village. 


Greenwich Locksmith is the smallest numbered building in Manhattan, and at only 125 square feet could be easily missed from a distance. Dwarfed on 7th Avenue by expensive condos and fancy restaurants, the homegrown locksmith has been a unique Greenwich Village establishment for more than 30 years.

A few years ago, an artist and the owner of the shop, Phil Mortillaro, began attaching keys in a pattern on the building’s door. The metal accents made a splash in the neighborhood and the locksmith started getting more attention. Building on this rising tide of local celebrity, Montillaro then built a chair completely out of keys in front of his store, and people went crazy.

While the Village was known for its art scene years ago, the area’s dynamic has markedly changed. Unhindered by the new look of his old neighborhood and armed with a sky’s-the-limit attitude, Mortillaro set out to bring back art to Greenwich. Working painstakingly for two years, he bought keys by the pound from local scrapyards, and began to work on a larger project. Mortillaro wanted to cover the entire façade of his store with a patterned key design.

Slowly, he welded the keys, of all shapes, sizes, and uses onto panels, and in 2011 finished a metallic interpretation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and a Jackson Pollock influenced-pattern, which he mounted to the building. Since then, the locksmith has turned heads on 7th Avenue and reclaimed a bit of the artsy past of the area.

Harkening back to a lost era in the Village, Mortillaro has left an impressive mark on the City, and has truly made his shop an exceptional establishment. Even more unique, and worth a look for visitors in the area is his studio, just a few feet away. Featuring more of his work with keys and other metals, Mortillaro’s studio is one of the last storefront art spaces in the city. Sadly, given real-estate value in the area it might not last for long.

Know Before You Go

Christopher Street Station (1, 2 Trains). Located between Commerce Street and Morton Street.

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July 11, 2011

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