Robert Payeur believes that grandfather clocks are a family’s heritage.
They can represent someone’s past, sometimes over several generations. When he comes across one that hasn’t been cared for and has fallen into disrepair, it can be disappointing given that history.
When Payeur was 14, he lived under guardianship in Pennsylvania. There, he had a friend that everyone called Papa Greenburg, an 82-year-old man who had repaired clocks all his life. Papa Greenburg tried teaching Payeur all he knew about clock restoration, but at the time the younger man didn’t have the interest, though the lessons unexpectedly took hold.
Four months ago, Payeur was on Facebook Marketplace, where people can buy and sell used items of all kinds. He saw a grandfather clock for $60 and said “a light came on.” He remembers the seller treating it like a piece of luggage and tossing it into the back of his car.
“These are an heirloom, and when you buy one, you think about what the future of it’s going to be,” said Payeur on Aug. 28, the business’ grand opening. “That’s how I feel about it.”
The clock—a Ridgeway Howard Miller—needed only a bit of repair work to the interior workings, plus some restoration of the wood. The latter is something Payeur has a passion for and he explained how to remove the metal ornamentation and get the wood siding looking like new. He said that getting a clock working again can be as simple as a $9 part.
Following the first purchase, Payeur bought another grandfather clock and another, eventually collecting 17 of them. He’s worked in a number of different businesses including as a quality assurance manager in the meat industry, and that attention to detail has helped in this new role. He once purchased a taxi business that was making $65,000 a year and five years later it made $600,000 annually.
Payeur credits his wife, whom he affectionately refers to as “Princess Ruby,” with helping him to get the business started and for her unwavering support. On the store’s business cards, the two are listed as co-proprietors.
“She’s been through a lot, and she’s nurtured me every step of the way and she nurtures me every day,” he said. “And, you know, this is for her.”
In the back of the store Payeur has a worktable set up where he disassembles and puts clocks of all kinds back together. From adjusting a watch band to restoration that runs over $600, he will spend hours on these timepieces. A hand-carved grandfather clock that he’s working on was bought by a couple for $1,200, and they sold it to Payeur for $45. He joked that the original clock face was “the face of embarrassment,” and he’s replacing it with a Howard Miller 64th edition. He said Papa Greenburg’s lessons came back while he was working on the $60 Ridgeway.
“I can tell you if there’s been some impact to it, that it’s caused some damage,” he said. “I can usually tell you why it’s not running. And nine times out of 10, I can get it to run.”
Along with restoration and repair services, Payeur’s shop has clocks of all kinds, from a whimsical cuckoo for children to a grandfather designed by Ty Pennington, host of “Extreme Makeover.” One grandfather clock that couldn’t be repaired was re-purposed into a curio cabinet. He also sells many brands of watches, including, Bonito, Biden, 40nine, and Invicta—the last of which is Payeur’s favorite. When it comes to brands, he often pictures how they’ll look on his wrist before buying. He said there are brands for all ages on display, and looks to add more in the future.
“You can tell the character of an individual by the watch they’re wearing and how they take care of it,” he said.
The business’ location, 55 N. Washington St., was one that Payeur said needed considerable work, including restoring the walls. He said there was a lot of fear, as the couple have everything tied up in the business. But Payeur is pleased with how Just Clocks & More has done, referring to the positive reviews he’s received. He hopes to expand the business further as time passes.
There’s a part of a grandfather clock that acts as a sort of time capsule. In it, the owner can place a certificate with their photo, wishes for their descendants, and the names of those to whom the clock is passed down. Payeur said he found a certificate in one of the clocks he was working on, that it had been passed down through two generations before being sold to him.
“And, you know, each generation that passes it on, they fill it out, and the date that they pass it on,” he said. “That’s, that’s lost (when they sell it). It’s too bad that it’s lost.”