NEWS

Stores fade, but craftsman keeps ticking

Elizabeth Davies

It had been a long day working the fields of his parents’ Minnesota farm, but Charles Reid knew it wasn’t quitting time yet.

He sat on the front porch of their farm house, tools in hand, and deftly began to repair a neighbor’s clock. When that was done, he had a watch to tend to.

Hardly any time had passed since Reid had graduated — more than three months early — from the Stone School of Watch Repairing in Minneapolis. He returned to help his parents work the field and immediately began taking on customers in a makeshift watch-repair business.

That was 70 years ago, and Reid is still at it.

Now working from a booth on the lower level of the Rockford gift shop Crimson Ridge, Reid fixes between 60 and 70 watches a week. When he turned 90 last summer, he decided to cut back a bit: From working six days a week to working just five.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday, you’ll find a dapper-looking Reid decked out in a suit and tie in his booth. He usually replaces watch batteries, shortens bands or cleans out a watch’s inner wheels.

“When I go on vacation, I’ll come back to a box with 50 watches in it that they took in while I was gone,” he said.

Every so often — Reid says it’s “few and far between” — he’ll run across a watch he cannot fix. Mostly, the problem is that the repair would just be too expensive. But for years, he has fashioned makeshift parts or rearranged the inner workings to make a new part fit.

Surviving stores

Reid has survived three jewelry stores that have gone out of business. The first was his: Reid and his father opened Reid Jewelry in downtown Oregon shortly after his days fixing clocks on the front porch.

They had moved here from Minnesota to be near family, and Reid taught his father how to fix clocks. Their store operated for 30 years before business slowed and Reid closed shop.

Then he headed to downtown Rockford, and he spent the next decade working for Troxel’s jewelry shop. When that store went out of business, he was lured to B. Sanfield. He spent 30 years there until the jewelry department closed recently. That’s when he made the switch to Crimson Ridge.

Best customers

Sometimes, he sees customers he met back at his store in Oregon.

“It’s always a pleasure to deal with my customers,” Reid said. “I’ve got the best customers in Rockford. I don’t know where the rest go, but I’m glad to have the best.”

Family friend Judy Lord says Reid’s customers benefit from his knowledge and one-on-one attention.

“These days, everyone is in such a rush,” she said. “But Mr. Reid will always stop no matter where he is and take the time to chat, to see how you are doing, maybe tell you a little story — which, being 90, he has many.”

Passing on retirement

And in 70 years of watch repair, Reid has never considered a career change.

“This was enough,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s always a challenge to work on them.”

As far as retiring, Reid says he simply doesn’t have it in him.

“I don’t want to retire,” he said. “For me, it’s a lot better working than just sitting around.”

But then with a smile on his face, Reid reconsiders.

Perhaps when he reaches 100, he says, it will be time to slow down.

Rockford Register Star

ABOUT CHARLES

Age: 90

City: Rockford

Family: Two daughters, one son, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren

Hobbies: Watching the Chicago Bulls and attending First Church of the Nazarene

To contact him: 815-988-2923