Like clockwork: She makes time to make timepieces run

News-DemocratDecember 30, 2013 

Name: Stephanie Frankhauser

Job: Owner, L&S Clock Repair at 2412 Richland Prairie Blvd. in Belleville (234-4401/lsclockrepair.com)

Outlook: "I really love fixing things."

When her cuckoo clock broke, Stephanie Frankhauser wasn't satisfied with just getting it fixed. She also wanted to know how to do it herself. Since then, she has been repairing timepieces and has moved from Champaign-Urbana area and has brought her trade to the metro-east. She recently invited business writer Will Buss to her new Belleville shop to talk about her craft:

Q: How did you get into clock repair?

A: "My daughter was cleaning my cuckoo clock and knocked it off the wall. When it hit the ground, it broke. It would run, but it wouldn't wind, so I just rigged the chain into a circle and then just rehanged the weights every eight hours. And it worked for a couple days, but then I realized that it was beyond me. I've always been a fix-it person, but I've never gotten into clocks and so I didn't want to tackle that at that point. So I called Lee Wilson in Urbana. He was the first person I called and he was the only person I called who would look at a cuckoo clock."

Q: How did this lead you into this business?

A: "I brought it in to Lee Wilson and he fixed it. When I as in there, I noticed there was a newspaper story that had been done about him about two years earlier that said that he had been in the business for 60 years and had more work than we really wanted and he wanted to slow down and kind of take it easy because he was 65. When I looked at that, I thought, what is going to happen when people like him are gone? Nobody in this part of the state would look at a cuckoo clock. I have a cuckoo clock. How many other people do that? Champaign-Urbana is close to the Chanute Air Force Base and there are a lot of military there, and I asked him if he would ever consider teaching anybody."

Q: What did he say?

A: "At first he said, 'no, no, no.' So then I picked up my clock and took it home. He called me about a week later and said, 'I wondered if you were serious about this because if you are, I've got a coupe clocks that would make a good first lesson.' So I went in and starting working with him. He had a shop in his dining room at the time. In 1970, he had a store front in Urbana and he moved it into his home and started working out of his home. Then he had a shop in his garage, but he hadn't worked out there for several years. He had polio and he was in a power wheelchair and worked in the corner of his dining room at that time."

Q: When did you start working with him?

A: "I started working with him and then in January 2003. By that summer, I had cleaned out the shop because it was really dusty and dirty and got things all set up. Then he started coming up there and we started working out there. I worked with him for seven years. He specialized in watches, but I didn't do enough watches to really make it profitable. I spent a lot more time on clocks. He passed away when he was 92, seven years later. He left everything to me. It was a fantastic arrangement for both of us because he was 85 when I met him and from all of that time, he was living alone. His wife had died two years earlier and he couldn't walk. My going in there every day was really good for him because he was able to be in his home a lot longer and I was able to do odd jobs and change light bulbs and things like that. He was a third grandparent to my children. My kids grew up with him. It was just amazing."

Q: What brought you to the metro-east?

A: "My husband was unemployed and he found a position at St. Louis Parking in February 2011. He moved here and I stayed in Urbana in our home waiting for our oldest son to graduate from high school. He was here, and I was there. My youngest son and I just moved here at the beginning of November. So we're finally together."

Q: What are the range of services you provide?

A: "I repair clocks, I change batteries in watches, but I don't do mechanical watches. I replace crystals, watch bands, I can adjust watch bands, lengthen them or shorten them. I work on just about any kind of clock. There is one type that is very specialized that I don't work on, but every other kind I do. I also work on odd things like brass candlesticks that need to be repaired or electric razors that need new blades and new parts. I've had people bring in timers like for a heater that needed to be set on a timer. I've worked on thermostats, I've worked on bank clocks, I've done work for the (University of Illinois), I've even had a person bring in a bread machine for me to clean and repair."

Q: How long have you been in business?

A: "It will be 11 years in January."

Q: How long have you been in business here?

A: "We moved everything here Nov. 8. On Dec. 13, I went to Urbana and met with about 20 people on my waiting list and brought some clocks back with me. My oldest son is working on grandfather clocks there. He has worked with me for about two years and so he's able to work on it. He is giving some serious thought to running the business there. That would be a huge benefit for me not to have to go back so often. All of my customers are there, at the moment. So I hope to get some here."

Q: What is your service area?

A: "I make house calls. I usually travel within a 50-mile radius in the Belleville area."

Q: What is the difference between the metro-east and Champaign-Urbana?

A: "This is the first time that I've had serious competition, but this is a big area. There are a lot of people around. Champaign-Urbana, I don't think have as many people in the immediate area."

Q: Have you worked in any other field?

A: "I have a degree in social work and I worked in that for 15 years, but I love working for myself. It's very flexible and like I said, I love what I do."

Q: What do you enjoy most about your business?

A: "I love the repairs. I really love fixing things, but I've also loved my customers. One of the things that I've found, at least in the Champaign-Urbana area, people had been looking for clock repair for years, and there was nobody there. When they found me, they were just overjoyed to find somebody. So I just love my customers and just love what I do."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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