WEEKLY BRIEFING: Businessman Has Time For Pursuit of Lost Art

Randy Burning appears to run counter clockwise. Rather than move from garage to storefront, Burning closed his Santa Monica shop two years ago and moved his clock repair business into his home. And rather than focus on the new generation of timepieces, he specializes in restoration and repair of 17th, 18th and 19th century grandfather clocks. Working out of a studio in his Chatsworth home has given Burning the flexibility to spend time with his family and lead short-term missions for his church while working on an art he loves.

"I got into the business 18 years ago. I was managing a jewelry store in Santa Monica at the time and our clock maker wanted to retire. After spending a year trying to replace him, I decided to learn clock making and repair from him.

"The restoration and repair of clocks is a dying art. There's really no one in the wings to continue on the art of repairing. We live in a disposable world and when things break people throw them away and buy a new one. But I enjoy taking something of value and age and restoring it to something that's close to its original condition.

"I work on American and European clocks which date back to as early as the 17th century. I used to work on a lot of smaller clocks, but my business has shifted so that grandfather clocks are 90 percent of my business. Grandfather clocks are taller, heavier and stand on the floor.

"Most people remember their parents or grandparents having a clock in their home, and can recall exactly what it sounded like. A clock is a memorable and also functional part of the home.

"About 70 percent of my customers want to fix an item that has been in their family for generations. I also work with interior decorators, design companies and antique dealers. I usually charge $295 to $495 for repair, which takes about 2 to 3 weeks.

"There's always work, but things go in cycles. There's always a rush before the holidays, when customers know that family are coming over and they want to see Grandmother's clock up and running.

"A grandfather clock only needs repair every 7 years, so repeat business is slim. I may only see a customer three times in their lifetime. But I advertise and have good word of mouth.

"Finding materials for clocks from the 17th century, like a missing part or cabling, is difficult. Also, antique glass is rare so sometimes I have to compromise on that.

"Nowadays the art of clock making has become like an assembly line as opposed to master craftsmanship. And some people don't want to bother with a grandfather clock's once-a-week winding."

Samantha Lee

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