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Photos by Stephen Schuresko

Donny Sobel, the town clockmaker hard at work

BY RICK MUNDY

Discovering Quality Time AT THE CLOCK SHOP OF VIENNA

A

s Donny Sobel is explaining a clock repair job to the customer before

him, he chooses every word with the same precision and care that goes into every repair task. He sets the client’s expectations for the possible extent of the repair, the timeframe, and the likely cost. Yes, he agrees with the customer that it could need “just a cleaning,” but based on age, physical condition, and more, there may be bigger concerns. In 42 years, Donny has seen clocks of every size, style, and brand and has the skill and knowledge to repair any of them as well as the honesty to tell the customer if the repair would be beyond the value of the clock, not counting sentimental value of course. The Clock Shop of Vienna has been at the same location on Church Street for those 43 years and is the perfect establishment for this quaint Vienna street. With a tremendous

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MARCH // APRIL 2015

selection of 500 clocks, five of them over 100 years old, there is a clock for every interest. Table clocks, wall clocks, and exquisite floor clocks adorn two rooms of the shop. Although many may appear old, they are incredible reproductions. The floor clocks are from the finest manufacturers, such as Comitti of London, Hermle, Howard Miller, and Lindow of Pennsylvania. Donny describes the various floor clocks, what most of us might refer to as grandfather’s clocks. Donny corrects, “A grandfather’s clock is a clock that your grandfather owned. Check the song.” He points out the intricate craftsmanship above the clock face – the moon phases (rather common), a rocking ship (rare), a rocking Father Time/Grim Reaper (incredibly rare). His Father Time floor clock, one of the true antiques, has been restored by the shop and is available for $27,000. The Clock Shop is truly a family affair. Donny’s older sister, Judy Switt, is quality control. She does triage, movement removal, installing and case preparation as well as most of the quartz movement installations. Gail, Donny’s lovely bride of 43 years, does bookkeeping, scheduling, much of the customer interaction, along with protecting the rest of the staff from an insane number of soliciting calls. Then there are the two other adopted family members, part-time clockmakers John Enloe and Ryan Johnson. The best “employee” Donny ever had, though, was his mother. “Mom loved to work with the customers. Everyone knew her as Mom and her business cards even said “Mom.”

Finish carpenter turned clockmaker Donny started his career as a builder and finish carpenter, building homes around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The 6-person company was doing well with a reputation for quality and detailoriented work. In the early 1970’s, with a sewer moratorium from WSSC and with interest rates approaching 18 percent, the new housing market was in jeopardy so Donny started looking for something that would use his skills and ability.

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VivaTysons | March-April 2015  
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