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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New chapter unfolds for Ahlers' grandfather clocks

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dick Ahlers (right), of Dick Ahlers Clocks has served a wide-range of customers in Siouxland and nearby adjacent states. Bonnie Newell (left), Tekamah, Neb. was at the business to pick up clocks Ahlers repaired for the Burt County Museum, in Tekamah.
A dirt floor and an unfinished interior greeted Dick Ahlers, of Le Mars, as he made plans to move his business into Southern Hills Mall, in Sioux City, in 1981.

Today, customers coming into Dick Ahlers Clocks find themselves greeted by stately grandfather clocks and a unique selection of smaller 'cousin' clocks.

Each calls its own time-attentive voice to attention creating a symphony of clock voices.

Ahlers is about to step down from this familiar podium of music.

The Sioux City store and Ahlers' similar Sioux Falls, S.D., business are closing at the end of this month.

This doesn't mean he's abandoning what for him has long been a meaningful part of his life, Ahlers said.

He will carry on with repairing and servicing clocks from his home in Le Mars after the stores' closings.

Ahlers' clock plans also include participation in trade shows and county fairs throughout the region.

As he took time from waiting on customers late last week, Ahlers said, "I've always believed the best job you can have is one that inclues something you enjoy and that fits your aptitude.

"I've enjoyed being here and my customers.

"At the same time you consider the long hours you're putting in, perhaps 60-70 hours a week, and on weekends when the greater number of people come in and you need to be here to help them."

He continued as he rested his elbows on the counter top.

"You might say it's a matter of being tired and thinking its time to get a life," he said with a smile.

Ahlers' dedication and his enthusiasm for selling clocks and making sure the clocks give the proper time are highly visible as one of the grandfather clocks seemingly senses its need to chime.

The clock, its crystal pendulum swinging, is a somewhat "unique" clock in the Dick Ahlers Clocks collection in that the chimes heard are those born of a concept first discussed by Ahlers and a friend 10 years ago.

Ahlers said, "Clocks are artistic in nature and somewhat an emotional thing.

"Our customers could, if they wanted to, buy a $10 timepiece.

"But when they come to the store they're looking for chimes and ambiance, something with a personality. This is the attraction clocks have for those purchasing a clock for themselves or a gift and for myself as I work with the clocks."

Ahlers explained that this was in part the forerunner of his idea and that of friend, Brian Haggerty, Colorado Springs, Colo., for a digital grandfather clock such as that seen in the store.

Ahlers said, "Between the two of us we came up on the idea to put the sounds of some of the best of the European bell towers and museum quality music boxes inside a clock.

"Brian, a retired electronics engineer who had grown up in Europe, took on the responsibility of making a trip to Europe with professional digital recording equipment."

Ahlers said Haggerty went to bell towers and museums and digitized the sounds which you are hearing on the clock here, on a memory card in the clock."

Among this collection of chimes is one described by Ahlers as that having been recorded off a music box crafted in 1900 and currently in a List, Germany museum.

The value of the music box based on a recent appraisal was $100,000, Ahlers added.

He and Haggerty were also be responsible for developing a mechanism capable of playing the recorded chimes.

Arrangements then proceeded with a Michigan-based cabinetmaker to provide the clock cabinets.

The digital clocks will continue to be available to wholesale customers.

Looking forward to what he foresees as a less structured work schedule, Ahlers explained how clocks first became a priority in his life.

He suggests it may well have been an early high school aptitude test with high scores in art and science, both of which he sees as inherent within working with clocks, he said.

Even more likely it may have been the time spent with a clock "hobby" while teaching art and science at Gehlen Catholic Schools in Le Mars in the late 1960s and 1970s, he added.

Ahlers, who had an integral role in the recent St. Joseph's Catholic Church building project and serves as the church's lay director, already has several things logged in to enjoy in the future.

Among them is his continuation of photography he considers "an art" and also to be enjoyed, he said.

Yet another long-standing interest worthy of pursuing again in the future is flying, Ahlers said.

He is a former flight instructor and charter pilot.

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