HUDSON — What is time? Some of the most brilliant minds in science stumble on the question, but
Larry Aune knows the answer. It’s that thing clocks keep track of.
Aune’s business is repairing clocks, something he’s been doing from his Hudson shop, Clocks Unique Antique Mart, for 25 years. His shop was located for years in the shopping center on the northeast corner of Bayonet Point, but when the economy slowed a decade ago, he downsized to a smaller storefront in the Ponderosa Plaza, 7241 State Road 52, just a couple of blocks east.
The shop, which also buys, sells and trades antiques, is jammed with vintage goods, a narrow trail cleared through the sea of walnut, brass and silver-clad inventory so customers can get around. Clocks are on every wall, floor to ceiling, and every hour there is a chaotic, asynchronous symphony of droning dongs, bellicose bells and a cacophony of cuckoos. Then all goes quiet.
“You get used to it,” Aune said, going over the notes he made that tell his story, which includes a hitch as a military policeman and later with a financial company.
“My dad was mechanically inclined and worked on cars and he taught me a lot,” he said. “I picked up clocks pretty quickly.”
The idea came shortly after arriving in St. Petersburg, where he and his wife, Nell, befriended a local couple with whom they frequently dined.
“It turned out he was a clock repairman and he said I should do that,” recalled Aune, who spent 18 months learning the skill from the man.
The decision was made to move north to Pasco County, where he would open his own shop. It was clocks only, with a specialty of grandfather clocks, but over time antiques worked their way into the picture.
“People didn’t always have the money to buy the clock they wanted to get one fixed, so I started taking antiques in trade,” said Aune. While selling and repairing clocks, including making house calls for grandfather clock service, is his primary business, he deals in old coins, watches, bicycles, train sets, old duck decoys and vintage fishing lures. He recently took in a hand-cranked phonograph. One time he picked up an old fishing lure that was among several old boxes he bought from a woman’s garage cleanout. He auctioned it online for $1,450.
“You never know what you are going to get with antiques,” he said, adding that he likes nothing more than bartering and making deals on interesting items.
Aune said most of his clock work is maintaining and repairing more valuable antiques and clocks that have sentimental value to his customers.
“You can go into Wal-Mart and buy a quartz clock that keeps great time,” he said. “But it’s not the same as something old that may have been passed down for generations; those are worth hanging on to.”
Aune said old German clocks are perhaps the best made of all, and the country is famous for its elaborate cuckoo clocks, of which he has several. Parts for many of the old clocks are readily available, but when they are not, he just goes to his collection of gears, springs and complete clockworks for what he needs.
“I’ve got stacks of parts,” Aune said. “I can usually find what I need.”
Aune also works on modern clocks with electronic quartz movements.
There are some nice clocks still being made, he said, though there are a lot more that fall into the “disposable” category than there were in years ago.
“Clocks used to be something really special, and long ago not everyone could even afford to own one,” he said, particularly the ornate and grandfather models. Such quality still exists today and new grandfather clocks of very high quality are being produced, Aune said. But there’s something special about the old ones.
“They were like works of art,” he said, pointing to a couple of grandfather clocks in his shop that date to around the turn of the century. “They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Aune, who is getting up there in years isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be in the business, but for now he can’t think of a better way to spend his time.