Time growing short for Tampa clockmaker

TAMPA

Stan Good turned 65 last year, a milestone that gets him thinking: about his prostate cancer diagnosis, his tour of duty in Vietnam, his songwriting aspirations and, especially, about his vocation as a clockmaker.

"Ten years ago, they did a survey. There were 2,000 clockmakers, and we were dying at rate of 10 percent a year. So I should've been gone by now," Good said. "But luckily the VA rejuvenated my prostate, and I've probably got another decade to go. They tell me I have an 80 percent chance. … I'd like to smell some roses along the way in case they're dead wrong."

Which is why, Good says, he and his wife of 41 years, Dominique, have decided to put their clock shop up for sale and retire.

The shop's landmark 20-foot-tall gray street clock is for sale, too, and Good is ready to make deals on the hundreds of clocks and antique fans — another obsession — that sit chockablock on shelves and crowd each other on the walls and on the harvest gold shag carpeting.

Also for sale is the big pink house next door, where the Goods raised their two sons, Chris and Max.

Stan Good wants to spend more time on his music. He wants to travel, the way they did before the recession forced them to work six days a week — including the six weeks he was receiving radiation treatment for his cancer — just to keep afloat.

Not that Good, who whistles the tune of a chiming clock, has kept a narrow focus on time. He's got the fans and the macaws, the exotic trees and plants (which shroud the shop) and the antique fish aquariums.

"My uncle described me as a monomaniac. My aunt gave me a penny folder when I was 7, and I had the whole damn thing pretty much filled up by high school, when I discovered women," said Good. "I couldn't date and collect coins at the same time."

How did Stan Good Clocks get started? It's a long story for a man who rarely covers a subject on which he fails to digress.

This story includes the Vietnam War and an 18-month stretch in Heidelberg, Germany, where Good wandered into a clock shop owned by two men who spoke perfect English. They hired him to strip the silver off corroded brass dials. They paid him in dead clocks, and in an education.

"One of the clocks needed a mainspring fixed. And I said, 'Well, how do you do this?' " recalled Good. "And they said, 'Well, you start at the bottom and work your way up.' And those words have been true for the rest of my life."

Then he met Dominique — "right up there with Mother Teresa. Better woman I never have found." He shipped 150 antique clocks back to various friends scattered throughout the United States — which he later picked up in a dilapidated moving truck as part of "the trip out of hell" — and settled in Tampa, where he used to scuba dive.

Then came seven jobs in a single year — copy editing at an ad agency, moving furniture for an elderly woman who collected German shepherds — and further education from another local clockmaker.

Good opened up his first shop in 1976 near an antique store on Kennedy Boulevard. He moved to 107 S MacDill Ave. a couple of years later.

Just a few years ago, Good sold a grandfather clock a week. By 2009, it was one per year. After he was diagnosed with cancer, the VA disability checks helped keep the business going. But now that he's cancer-free, that money will disappear.

"The only money left is doing house calls. I can make about $100 an hour. … People stopped getting their clocks fixed (with the recession). But after three years, going on four, without getting oiled, they start wearing out.

"There's 54 places to oil on the average grandfather clock. You miss a few, and I'll see you sooner."

David Boyd Jr., whose father started their Hyde Park clock business in 1944, said that when Good retires, it will leave only a handful of traditional clockmakers in Tampa Bay.

"The ones that have survived are carrying on a true craft," he said, noting that it's a profession that requires apprenticeship. "I'm telling you, it's not the type of profession that you can just go in and open a store."

Boyd points to the ubiquity of digital time — from microwaves in the kitchen, to cell phones in pockets — to explain why the market can be so difficult.

"The old clocks that tick tock," he said, "those are luxury items."

Good said having a sense of humor helps when thinking about the state of clockmaking.

"I learned early on that irony makes for good humor," he said. "There's an irony in being a clockmaker. It's like being a buggy whip dealer at the beginning of the car age."

And speaking of irony: Back in elementary school, Good had scarlet fever followed by chicken pox — or was it vice versa? — and missed some basic lessons.

"I missed when they were teaching how to tell time," he said, with a laugh. "It took me a while to figure out a clock."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com.

Time growing short for Tampa clockmaker 07/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 12:58am]

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