Bob Brewer was devastated when a cuckoo clock – an heirloom that had been in his wife’s family since the 1880s – fell and smashed to pieces. He figured he’d have to ship the remnants of the family’s treasure to some far-off location for repair.
Luckily for Brewer, help was literally around the corner from his Wake Forest home.
Rick Richardson, owner of Clocktiques on South Main Street, has been working on clocks since he was a child. His father and grandfather were horologists who specialized in selling and repairing all sorts of timepieces.
Brewer brought the shattered clock into the small shop, and a few weeks later, it was fixed. Even the delicate bone hands that shattered in the fall were carefully reconstructed.
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Richardson hadn’t planned to enter the family business. He studied auto body repair and painting and got a job, forging his own path in life.
He was happy doing automobile work for more than a decade. But Richardson said a bad economy and downsizing at local auto shops forced him to consider other options. After a brief foray into landscaping, an idea kept ticking in his head.
“My dad had been telling me all along, ‘Go back to clocks,’ ” said Richardson, a jeweler’s visor perched atop his head. “So, we started this business in 2006. It’s been nonstop ever since.”
Modern and vintage timepieces adorn the walls of Clocktiques. Some are for sale, and some are waiting for customers to pick them up after they were repaired.
Richardson walks around with his apron and magnifying visor answering questions from walk-in customers. Along with working at the shop, he finds time to make house calls for grandfather clocks that are not easily moved.
He said sales have slowed since the recession, but repair work has been more than steady.
“I guess with the economy, people are just more interested in getting their stuff working again than buying something new,” he said. “And a lot of times, it’s a family piece they want restored. They have that emotional attachment.”
Cellphones tell time now
Repairing clocks made Richardson eager to learn more about the craft, so he also turned to watchmaking. Working with mechanical watches was more of a challenge, as the parts are minuscule compared to a wall clock. A movement inside a mechanical watch can be as small as a dime, with dozens of moving parts.
“I’ve just always loved watches,” Richardson said. “It’s the one piece of jewelry a man can really get away with. Clock repair was getting easy for me, so I started getting into pocket watches and wristwatches.”
He has become popular for his mechanical watch repair skills. He’s one of the few people in the area able to do the work locally.
He enjoys bringing a 50-year-old watch back to life, but repairing a watch these days is often as simple as changing the battery.
“People are interested in mechanical when it’s higher-end watches,” he said. “But mostly, they want something simple. Really, people are using their phones more as a timepiece.”
A fading art
With the business succeeding, Richardson’s wife, Crystal, left her full-time job to help out at Clocktiques.
“My dad told me that it would do well, but I had no idea how busy we’d be,” Richardson said. “I’m constantly out for repairs or answering questions on the phone.”
While Richardson has found his way back to the family business, he said his son has shown no interest in pursuing horology.
“When I’m done, that’s pretty much it for my family in this business,” he said. “I hope more people do end up getting into it, though. It’s an art and it just seems to be dying.”
For Brewer, who plans to give the old cuckoo clock to his daughter one day, Richardson’s work has allowed an important piece of his family’s history to live on for generations.
“This has survived a lot,” he said, “and we’ll keep it going.”
About the series
The North Raleigh News and Midtown Raleigh News are publishing a series of stories about locally owned businesses. Do you know of a business you’d like to see featured? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more
Clocktiques is located at 2004 S. Main St., Wake Forest. Go to www.clocktiquesrc.com.