I recently started wearing watches again. After years at tapping my smart phone and looking at the time, I decided that it was time to revert to old school time keeping. The problem is that my watches all had dead batteries. And I didn’t feel like driving to the mall.
The other night, while dining at The Dapper Goose on Amherst Street, my compadres and I entered into a conversation about the street. Someone mentioned the clock and repair shop down the street, but no one had ever seen it open. Then someone chimed in, “He’s always at The Broadway Market.”
It turns out that the watch repair person was indeed at The Broadway Market, so I gathered a couple of my favorites timepieces and headed east. A few minutes later I was pulling into the parking ramp attached to the market. After making a quick sweep of the market, I found him. William Q. Young was busy chatting with a couple of customers, while his wife and business partner, Judy, was scrambling around behind him.
When it came to be my turn, I mentioned his other place on Amherst Street that never appeared to be open. “That’s where I live,” he told me. “It’s also where I repair clocks.”
I found it fascinating that William and Judy had a commercial storefront on Amherst Street, yet worked out of The Broadway Market. “We’ve been here since 1988,” he told me. “Before that I was at Watch World, first as an apprentice, later as a repair person. I’ve always been into watches – I’ve always been mechanically inclined. When I was younger, there were a lot more of us… now I’m the only one left in the city.”
William and Judy’s business, Hands On, does great business these days, which I was happy to hear. A lot of people are going back to wearing watches again,” said William. “The clock repair business is also big. When I’m not repairing watches at the shop, I’m at home repairing all sorts of clocks. Clocks get handed down from generation to generation. There is a sentimental attachment. And watches? People still love their watches – we see some real beauties that come through, although I’ve been doing this for so long that nothing surprises me anymore.”
Of course I was not at Hands On to have a watch repaired. Rather, I was there to get batteries replaced and purchase a couple of new leather wristbands. As I talked to William and Judy, I handed off my first watch, and before I could even formulate my next question, he had my watch back in my hand with a new battery in it and the time set. Now I’ve had plenty of watch batteries replaced in the past, but nothing like this. It was a miracle actually. He was changing out the batteries in a matter of seconds. “The people at other watch repair stores in WNY say that we make them look bad,” exclaimed Judy [chuckling]. William then chimed in by saying, “Target won’t even change a watch battery, and Walmart will only do so if you bought it there. So we have lots of people who bring their watches to us – word of mouth is our only way of marketing.”
Did you know that pulling out the pin on your watch does not save battery life? William says that it’s like a car running in neutral. It’s still going to go dead either way.
Not only does William change out a battery with the prowess of a master oyster shucker, he also charges a pittance compared to the other watch places. $3 per battery! That’s incredible. Plus, the watch bands are also very reasonable at $12. No wonder they are doing such a great business. “People all told him we would never make it,” Judy shared with me. “Well, we’re still here, and we’re busier than ever. We grew up in Black Rock, but we come here because people expect us to be here. Someday, there might be a retirement angle on Amherst Street. We love the neighborhood. We still do business there, although this is where we service customers.”
After all of the talk about watches, the market, Black Rock, and cuckoo clocks, William told me something that rang true through and through. “At the end of the day,” he confided. “It’s not about the watches. It’s about the people. All walks of life, from all over the place. We meet judges, teachers, and a ton of City workers…”
“I was on the School Board!” shouted a customer at the end of the repair booth.
It was then that I reflected upon all of the times in my life that I had been late for something because I was not wearing a watch. People still rely on watches to ensure that they are on time for work, for meetings with friends, and to basically get around on time. Watches are also a type of status, I feel. Smart phones are too easy, and not at all fashionable. Everyone has one, that’s for sure. But there’s something to be said for a person that cares enough to wear a timepiece. Thankfully we have a couple of skilled watch fanatics around to ensure that our watches get some fixin’ after they take a lickin’.
Hands On | Broadway Market | 999 Broadway Market | Buffalo NY 14212 | 716-894-3266 | Tues-Sat | 9am – 4pm