Pop-A-Lock vans can be found across North America, but the company’s roots are in Lafayette. It started with an idea from two former Lafayette deputies.
"At the sheriff’s office, you’d think most calls that we had coming in were crime-related, but every third phone call was a locked car," said Steve Gremillion, who co-founded the company with Carl Vincent.
"We’d say ‘boy we wish we’d had a nickel for every car door we’d unlocked,’ I said well ‘let’s go for bigger than a nickel,’" said Vincent.
That was 1991, and it wasn’t long before the two were at work on Pop-A-Lock.
"We unlocked the very first car door at the old Sam’s on 1-10 and Ambassador Caffery," said Vincent. "All of the sudden we went to Baton Rouge, Shreveport, then to New Orleans, and people we serviced started saying ‘can we buy into this?’"
A few years later Gremillion and Vincent started franchising. Today, Pop-A-Lock can be found in 8,500 communities in North America. Lafayette remains its corporate headquarters and even features a national training center.
"We really are the state of the industry," said CEO Don Marks, who joined the company 14 years ago after he came in for a consultation.
"Every time I do a consultation, almost 100% of the time they say ‘Don would you buy a part and run it?’ And almost 100% of the time I’d say no," said Marks. "But when I see a sustainable, strategic, competitive advantage, which in English means something others can’t do or won’t do– that’s exciting and that’s what I saw in Pop-A-Lock and the service industry here."
Pop-A-Lock is now part of the Pro Network, also headquartered in Lafayette. A Plumbing Pro division is launching later this month.
"Then will come Electric Pro, Glass Pro, Roof Pro, Pest pro," said Marks. "We want to say to our customers, ‘whatever is important to you is important to us.’"
Two years ago, Lee’s Air Conditioning became the flagship location of the Temperature Pro brand. Since Temperature Pro started franchising, that brand now has more than 40 locations nationwide. Franchises looking to follow on Pop-A-Lock’s success.
"We’re proud of the fact that it’s stayed in Lafayette," said Vincent. "Everybody said move it to a big city, well we’re Lafayette born. This is where we’re going to stay."