Childhood tinkering leads to Antique Clock Shoppe in Morton Grove
Don Behles, who owns the Antique Clock Shoppe in Morton Grove, has been tinkering with clocks since he was a kid. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:15AM
MORTON GROVE — Don Behles admitted that his Antique Clock Shoppe is not the place to be at noon on Friday.
On Friday morning, he winds all of the clocks — wall clocks, mantle clocks, grandfather clocks, clocks on tables and shelves — and at noon all of the chimes and bells go off.
“It gets loud,” Behles said.
The rest of the time, though, the Morton Grove shop is a bit of a trip back in time. A variety of clocks, from dozens of countries and several centuries, are on display.
As for unusual clocks, Behles pointed out a small version made by the Swiss firm Jaeger-LeCoultre. Its Atmos clock never needs to be wound. Instead, it has a brass bellows kind of device that expands and contracts with changes in barometric pressure and temperature, and uses that movement to wind the clock.
In order for the concept to work, Behles said the clock has a very small movement.
“It’s smaller than what you would find in an old wrist watch,” Behles explained.
Also in the shop, Behles has several clocks make in the 1800s, including one made in Ansonia, New York. There also is a brass clock made by JE Caldwell in France.
But his personal collection at home goes back much further, including a floor-standing clock made in 1681.
“It tells time with one hand,” Behles said.
While he sells the antique clocks, Behles reported that most of his business is maintenance and repairs.
Tinkering with clocks came naturally to Behles, who said he began taking things apart as a kid. But unlike many kids who do that, he also was able to put them back together so they worked.
“When I was a little kid I’d pick up bicycles in the alleys of Chicago and fix them and give them away or sell them,” he said.
“I started to tear apart radios and TVs when I was 11 or 12,” he added. “My parents were afraid I was going to blow up the place.”
His first experience working on a clock came when one of his grandparents had a mantle clock that didn’t run.
“I took it apart and got it to run and I was hooked,” Behles said.
He has run the shop at 6022 Dempster St. in Morton Grove for 17 years. It was located in Niles for five years before that.
If he has one problem with clocks, it’s not really the clocks themselves, but their owner who ignores routine maintenance for their often-expensive timepieces.
“A clock should be oiled at least once every three years,” he said. “Most people don’t do it.
“They run their clocks until they die,” Behles added. “Anything mechanical has to be lubricated. If you lubricate a clock at least once every three years it will last for 200 years.”
There is one other clock-related item that bugs him: cuckoo clocks. He suggested those may have been some form of revenge by Germany on the United States following World War II, when many soldiers returned home with the noisy devices.
“They really have very little value,” Behles said.