Time has been good to Rick and Doris Graham. Married for over four decades, their livelihood spans four centuries. They sell clocks at their family business, the Maryland Clock Company located in Davidsonville, and repair some timekeepers that date as early as the 1700’s. Graham fixes the clocks and says his wife “does everything else.”
Rick Graham’s father, Bob, began the clock repair business in 1950. Rick Graham, an only child, took over the shop at nineteen when his father passed away in 1973. Years later, Rick and Doris Graham expanded the company to include selling clocks.
Grandfather, grandmother, wall, mantel, nautical and cuckoo clocks from the United States, England, France and Germany fill the showroom floor. Two grandmother clocks, distinguished from grandfather clocks by their “cinched waists” and shorter height, were made by the Maryland Clock Company and sell for $2,500 each.
The oldest and largest clocks Graham repairs are the English tall case grandfather clocks from the 1760’s where the clock dial -known in layman’s terms as the clock face- is made from wood.
Rick Graham performs the mechanical repairs, and the overhauling of clocks which involves using volatile chemicals. He makes three to four “house calls” to peoples’ homes every morning to service grandfather clocks before heading to his workshop. Doris Graham manages the showroom, handles the cosmetic clock repairs, and teaches owners how to operate their antique clocks. “A lot of people inherit clocks and don’t know the history,” she says. In addition to managing the showroom, she owns a travel agency next door to the showroom with her daughter, Sarah Kline.
Doris, 59, and her husband, 61, met in the Hyattsville area where they both lived when she was twelve and he was fourteen. They began dating two years later. Since then, she has worked alongside him in the business. Doris reminisces, “Instead of going on dates, we would set up clocks. He’d always take me out to lunch or dinner afterwards.” The business has always been a family affair. “We raised all three of our kids in the back of the clock shop. We used to have a playpen in the back room,” she says.
Being self-employed allows Graham to work at his own pace. “I like to make my own rules,” he says. Also interested in music, Graham studied classical guitar for eight years and was part of a soul band in his teens.
Graham describes an older clock as, “the ultimate green machine because… it serves you for a week and only requires less than a minute of your time to wind it up.” A French brass mantle clock from the 1880’s with ornately sculpted figures; a porcelain clock decorated in 24K gold leaf, and an English grandfather clock from the 1760’s are just a few of the gems for repair or display in the showroom. Graham says, “The thing about most old clocks [is] they’re all unique and not going to be created like that again, ever.”
The couple have hopes that a member of the family will take over the business whenever they retire. Time will tell.
Story and photos by Algerina Perna | firstname.lastname@example.org