ALEXANDRIA — Like turntable record players, VCRs and AM/FM radios, novelty clocks are being relegated to the dust bin of classic household items for which younger generations are finding little use as newer technologies take over nearly every aspect of home life.
Those timepieces that also serve as conversation pieces are becoming harder to find, and logic dictates that demand for services like those provided by Joe and Susie Remington will soon dry up.
“The grandkids don’t want Grandma and Grandpa’s grandfather clocks,” Susie said. “Either you really love them or you don’t care. I think the thinking of a lot of the generations now is, they don’t want to have to wind it once a week, they don’t want to put money into it every five, 10 years.”
Those realities are at least partly why, after 40 years in business, the Remingtons are closing the Alexandria Clock Shop at the end of this year.
“It’s just time to move on, I think,” Joe said. “I’ve done it for 40 years, and I’ve met a lot of nice people, but we’re just getting tired.”
The demise of specialty clock shops like the Remingtons’ is becoming more common as a generation of clockmakers and repair experts ages. The American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute, which provides guidance and standards of service to the timekeeping industry, has seen its worldwide membership decline to an all-time low of 1,400 — down from a high of nearly 10,000 in the 1960s, according to the organization’s website. And, as tastes in home decor continue to change, bulky pieces of furniture are falling out of favor.
“When it comes to young people furnishing their homes, they don’t think of a nice clock as being something that’s a necessary part of decorating,” said Jordan Ficklin, the AWCI’s executive director. “They’re happy with an inexpensive quartz clock that you’d pick up at Walmart or Target or someplace.”
The Remingtons got into the business in 1974 after Susie’s father, Murl Ray, built clocks for each of his six children. “People saw those and wanted him to build them one, and it kind of rolled into a hobby then,” Joe recalled.
By 1979, Joe and his father-in-law had built an attachment onto the front of a small building on Cleveland Street which became the Alexandria Clock Shop’s showroom. They moved their power tools into the back room and, over a 12-year period ending in 1986, they built and sold more than 230 clocks.
“In ’84, my sister-in-law and I bought the business off of Murl,” Joe said. “We had five stores, as it turned out. We had our main store here, one in Muncie, one in Kokomo, one in Fort Wayne and one in Anderson.”
All but the Alexandria location had closed by 1993 as the Remingtons chose to stay close to home. The business remained robust throughout the ’90s before sales and repair jobs began to gradually decline in the mid-2000s.
The Remingtons turned to buying and reselling clocks for several years. At one point, Joe says, the showroom housed as many as 45 grandfather clocks, with cuckoo clocks and mantle timepieces adorning the walls.
“We really got to rolling there for awhile,” Joe said. “But as it went along, the market just slowly kept slipping away from us.”
The Remingtons’ decision to close their shop may not carry with it a drastic economic impact to the city, but officials say it’s a blow nonetheless.
“You do lose part of your identity every time a unique business leaves,” said Warren Brown, Alexandria’s economic development director. “To lose something like the clock shop where you have the ability to purchase heirloom quality pieces, to have pieces evaluated, it hurts. You always wish them the best, though, because we appreciate all that they’ve done for the community.”