Robert and John Moinat, Coronado Lock and Key
“Do you have keys for handcuffs?” This was an opening question in a story from Robert Moinat of Coronado Lock and Key. When Robert was about 19 and working for his dad, Wouter Moinat, a black limousine rolled up, the driver got out, and asked Robert if they had handcuff keys. As a matter of fact, they did. After retrieving the key from the back room, Robert stepped outside as the back window of the sleek limo rolled down, just enough for two sets of hands, one male and one female,to wedge out far enough for Robert to uncuff the mysterious pair. The driver explained that they had been handcuffed together, but the key was back at the hotel. Robert too bowled over to asked questions, simply accepted the $20 bill the driver handed him and watched the vehicle drive away.
This is just one of many stories that Robert and John have of their father and uncle’s long-time Coronado family business. Given that the store open in 1964, Robert speculated that one of the four have probably been in every home in Coronado at least once. He went on to explain: “When the locks need to be changed, something personal (a robbery, a family dispute, an employee firing) is going on.”
Below: The shop in 1967
But lock-changing is just one small aspect of this small business. Key-making, lawn-mower parts selling, and recusing people stranded because they are locked-out of their home are all part of this busy up-town store.
Many don’t know it, but Coronado Lock and Key is an immigrant story. Robert and John’s father first came to Coronado in 1961 from Amsterdam searching for weather that better served his temperament and interests.
It was Wouter’s friendly and outgoing nature that created his first link to our corner of this world. In the late 1950s, an American locksmith on vacation in Amsterdam gave Wouter his business card and said, “If you’re ever in San Diego, look me up.” Wouter did, landed in Coronado, bought the property at 1016 9th Street, that now includes both Coronado Lock and Key and Flagg Coastal Homes.
A machinist by trade, Wouter Moinat, was passionate about fitness and an outdoor lifestyle. Free from the fridged cold of Amersterdam, Wouter went to Coronado Beach often. He was often seen doing handstands down the shoreline with the Coronado Islands in the background.
After getting settled, Wouter called his brother John (Jean) in Holland and said: “It’s paradise here – you to need to join me.” Wasting no time, brother John left that northern European city with his wife and joined Wouter in Coronado. The three of them lived together in what is now the Flagg Coastal Homes business space. Lee Mather was the original agent.
Later Wouter met Dina Del Castillo, also a newly arrived immigrant, when he was doing a house call here in Coronado. Miss Del Castillo was a nanny and a housekeeper for a local family. They were soon married and Dina moved into the little home as well. It’s impressive to look a the Flagg Coastal Homes space now and image this little home where four immigrants lived and created one of the most beloved shops in all of Coronado.
Robert laughed that the brothers were a bit like Oscar and Felix of the “Odd Couple” television show, with his dad being a bit sloppy and his uncle neat as a pin. It made me laugh as well. I’m sure in that tiny space, neatness mattered!
Later with a growing family, Wouter moved to Imperial Beach, but the brothers continued to own the property and run the lock and key business.
Now two of the sons, Robert and John, run the business while the older Mointers enjoy retirement.
Wouter, at 89, still rides his bike in from Imperial Beach to Coronado almost everyday. John, a Coronado High School graduate, said: “A lot of the residents, remember our dad, he was such a fixture in the community. They would bring my dad wooden shoes after travels to Holland.” John continued, ” The people [around town] have changed a lot, but the old-timers still remember my dad. There are still gardeners who continue to come by to buy blades and oil for their lawn-movers.”
And while change has meant less and less folks who remember their dad, Robert and John point out that community growth has always been good for business. In the early days, the Dutch speaking brothers did everything: repairing lawn mowers, sewing machines, and locksmith work. Robert pointed out that with the building of the bridge in the early 1960s, and the building of The Shores in 1970s, allowed his father’s locksmith business to thrive. Today, growth is also positive for business; new construction and re-models mean new locksmith work.
Robert and John feel thankful that their father and uncle had the foresight to purchase and fully own the property that supports Coronado Lock and Key. Robert explained: “We do own the property and that’s why we’ve been here for 51 years. If not for their foresight, we wouldn’t have the only family business that owns their building and their business.”
I asked Robert if he had a final story for me: “Yes,” he said. “I have really nice memories of Admiral Stockdale coming in on a regular basis.” Robert reminisced that Admiral Stockdale was “really down to earth – old school.” Taylor Stockdale remembered that his dad always enjoyed coming into the store: “My dad thought those guys were great. Always ready to help.”
Robert laughed as he told me that when Admiral Stockdale started getting around town in in an electric car, he came to the shop right away. The Admiral had misplaced the key that “turbo-charged” the electric vehicle, and that that needed to be rectified right away. So they fitted him with the necessary key and the Admiral was off and flying – buzzing around town with help from his neighborhood locksmiths at Coronado Lock and Key.
Coronado Lock & Key
1016 9th Street
Coronado, CA 92118
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Below: Original store sign with a pair wooden shoes.