Lee Pickett calls it a day
And Thredz follows
"They say old watchmakers never die, they just get run down," says Campus Jewelers owner Lee Pickett. A trim and tireless sixty-two, Pickett is anything but run down. But after repairing watches for more than four decades, he'll close up shop when his lease runs out in August.
Pickett is a third-generation watchmaker, but he says the term is misleading--he doesn't know how to make a watch. "If I said I was a horologist, which is what I am, nobody would know what the hell it was." A horologist is someone who's interested in the science of measuring time. The term is also used to describe people, like Pickett, who repair timekeeping devices.
He keeps detailed records and puts what's called a watchmaker's mark on every watch. Every watchmaker "who's worth a damn" does so, he says. "I can go back to my records and tell a customer when I worked on it and exactly what repairs I made." He was working on watch No. 25,503 when we talked to him. "So there are 25,000 watches out here with my repair mark on them."
Pickett's not retiring completely--he plans to have a small shop at home and do watch repair by mail. But since he and his wife, Carol, have no kids, the family business won't be handed down to a fourth generation. Selling was never an option, because as far as Pickett is concerned his most valuable asset is the Campus Jewelers name. "I had a guy come here who wanted to buy my name and store," says Pickett. "He knows nothing about [the business]. I told him, 'I'll tell you what, I'll sell you the equipment, I will not sell you the name.' I don't want people coming up here on my name and getting their watches tore up. I built the name, I'll die with the name."
Shelley Stern and Lauren Metzendorf closed Thredz, their upscale women's clothing boutique on South Ashley, just ten months after reopening it. The store first opened in Westgate Shopping Center in 2002 and closed three years later because of family matters. This time, Stern says, it's closing because she's moving to New Mexico. She says that they didn't try to sell the business because they were never in it for the money: "We just did this as a hobby."
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[Originally published in August, 2009.]