The Timekeepers

Father and son duo Phil and Kris Hollis keep the clocks ticking at their mechanical clock repair shop in Port St. Lucie.
Father and son duo Phil and Kris Hollis keep the clocks ticking at their mechanical clock repair shop in Port St. Lucie.

Chimes, bells and melodies interrupt the constant tick-tock of clocks greeting visitors at Clocks By Hollis in Port St. Lucie, but the sounds certainly don’t bother the father-son team who run the shop.

With dedication and passion in honoring the high-quality tradition of mechanical clocks, Phil and Kris Hollis fix, clean and sell every kind of timekeeper imaginable. All types – from Russian ship clocks and cuckoo clocks, to grandfather clocks and pocket watches – are on display.

“Have you ever seen so many clocks?” Phil Hollis asks during a tour of the museum-worthy showroom and workstations off of Village Green Drive. “Time is more important now than it ever has been,” he says.

Even with the advent of the quartz watch and digital alarm clocks, more and more people come to Phil Hollis and his son for maintenance on mechanical clocks, which many consider a long-term investment worthy of inheritance.

Phil Hollis, 68, began his career in timepieces in 1971, when he started an apprenticeship with a clocksmith after college, and a stint in the armed forces. He opened his own business, first in his home and later in storefronts in Mansfield, Ohio. In 1991, he and his wife, Tyler, moved to Florida after they inherited a home from her parents.

Meanwhile, their son Kris Hollis, now 44, joined the Air Force and embarked on a 20-year career that stationed him around the globe, including Korea, Italy and Hawaii. About three years ago, he joined the family business.

“I’ve always been around it since I was small,” he says. “I’ve always had a cuckoo clock, even overseas, to remind me of home.”

The store feels like home, with clocks covering the walls and filling shelves. Most of them don’t keep accurate time, however.

“My theory is, I do not repair a clock until someone speaks for it,” Phil Hollis says. “I have a few running, but a clock needs to be cleaned every five years. If I repair it now, you wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth.”

Mechanical clocks, some dating back to the 1800s, don’t come with instruction manuals. So Phil and Kris Hollis must rely on their combined decades of experience and analytical minds to fix a problem. Once a clock is fixed, it stays in the workroom for at least a week as the men tinker with the weights, springs, keys and screws until it keeps accurate time.

They believe in fixing the clocks with original parts, rather than replacing the mechanics, in order to ensure its high-quality will last for years.

“We feel good about restoring heirlooms,” Kris Hollis says.

Not surprisingly, Phil Hollis – who has been a member of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors since 1974 – has well over 100 clocks at home. When he goes on vacation, the first task upon his return is winding them all up. Yet, neither he nor Kris Hollis wears a watch.

“I always know what time it is,” Phil Hollis says with a smile.

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