Last of their type: Clock, typewriter repair shop owners, blacksmith hard to find, but still in demand

Last of their type: Clock, typewriter repair shop owners, blacksmith hard to find, but still in demand


CROWN POINT — Time seems to stand still inside the Old Lake County Courthouse clock shop that bears the name of its owner.

Owner Heidi Laninga patiently and painstakingly works to repair a broken clock in a shop filled with dozens of other clocks that chime, cuckoo or play various melodies.

Repairing broken clocks is a skill that comes naturally for Laninga, a fourth-generation horologist, who learned to work on clocks while helping her dad, Jack Laninga, when she was a child.

"When I started helping my dad I realized I liked it. I've always been around it. ... I began watching him when I was 1 1/2 and began helping him since I was 10," she said.

Laninga took over her dad's store, Prime Time Clock Shop, about 4 1/2 years ago after he developed health problems.

The shop is now called Heidi's House of Clock Repair.

"I'm kind of an introvert, so I like to work for myself. I make people happy fixing their clocks because usually they are attached to a good memory, and they usually involve a lot of sentimentality," Laninga said.

She admits those who fix clocks are becoming harder to find these days, especially those who are trained professionals like her.

"I'm not 'it,' but it's hard to find reliable people who know what they are doing," Laninga said.

The keys to longevity 

Other timeless services still available but difficult to find include a typewriter repair shop called Crown Point Office Machines owned by Al Stuckey and a blacksmith shop called Willoughby Forge operated by Tom Willoughby, of Crown Point.

"I'm a dinosaur. I'm the last survivor," Stuckey said of his typewriter repairman skills.

Stuckey, who also works on other office machines — excluding computers — and even makes house calls, worked for years in electronics after learning the trade in the U.S. Army.

His first job was working at the Olivetti Typewriter Co. in Chicago starting in 1970.

Stuckey opened his own shop, inside his garage, in 1994.

"Every day is a discovery. Every day is a problem solved," Stuckey said.

Fixing the old typewriters, including a 1911 Reliance Visible Typewriter, is something Stuckey most enjoys.

"There's always a challenge. On the old stuff, most of it is 90 percent repairable. Sometimes they are just too rusted," Stuckey said.

His typewriter repair clients include collectors and at least one book author.

"I have an author who has five manual typewriters," he said.

Stuckey, at age 71, sad he has no plans on retiring.

"I see what happens to people who sit down and relax, and they don't last," he said. "As long as I have business, I'll stay in business."

Not horsing around

Willoughby has been a blacksmith for 37 years, 35 of those years putting on shoes for horses.

He can't shoe horses anymore because of an operation on his back, but that doesn't stop him from his other endeavors, including carving one-of-a-kind decorative pieces forged from steel or wood.

Willoughby has operated his own business for about the past 18 years inside a garage at his Crown Point home.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corp., Willoughby used the GI Bill to go to Midwest Horseshoeing School in Malcolm, Illinois.

Although he grew up in Illinois, Willoughby said he was drawn to Northwest Indiana because many of his customers were from the area.

In addition to being a blacksmith and a former farrier (person who shoes horses), Willoughby also lists as his titles songwriter and artist.

"I'll never retire because I like what I do. You take something like steel and it will do more than you think," Willoughby said.

And although there's a lot of farriers, there's only a handful of true blacksmiths like him.

"There's a lot of hobby blacksmithing now," Willoughby said. "My job is right here in this shop every day."


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