The Fine Clock Shop – A Historic Look Back

The Fine Clock Shop opened its doors in the summer of 1978 at 5907 Mesker st. in Weston, Wisconsin and closed on Dec. 28th, 2005 at 5103 Lilac Ave. in Rib Mountain, Wisconsin.  Richard & Marjorie Dettmann were the original owners.  Richard Dettmann was a Factory Representative for several furniture companies from the mid-1960’s up through the mid-1990’s.  His companies included Ethan Allen, Ridgeway, Singer, LampCraft, Whesco,  Baldwin and over 30 other manufacturers.  His territory was primarily the state of Wisconsin, and he helped open many of the Ethan Allen stores still in business today.  In the early 1970’s he was hired to rep. The line “Ridgeway”, which was a clock manufacturer out of Ridgeway, Virginia.  Now many people don’t know this, but Ridgeway was (and still is) the manufacturer for all of Ethan Allen’s clocks.  If you own an Ethan Allen clock, you really own a Ridgeway.  Over his first 5 years, he helped to grow the Ridgeway name in Wisconsin by over 300%, but this presented a new problem: Shipping.  The company could not keep up with the orders Richard was writing, so in 1975 Richard & Marjorie opened the first ever clock warehouse out of their garage in Wausau, WI. 

They took their life’s savings and slowly stocked-up on everything Ridgeway made, and bought a cargo van.  If a furniture store in Milwaukee wanted 3 grandfather clocks, but they couldn’t be shipped for 2 months, Richard would deliver them himself the very next week.  This worked very well, but the next problem they ran into was that despite rising sales, Richard couldn’t convince any of his clients to open a “Clock Showcase”, a separate store just for clocks.  In 1977 Richard & Marjorie decided that they would put their money where their mouth was, and stated making plans for just such a showcase.  They spent months looking for the right location, and in spring of 1978 the signed a 1-year lease on a building in Weston, WI.

When the store opened in July of 1978, it boasted over 50 Grandfather & Grandmother clocks, and about 100 different wall & mantle clocks.  It was a store like no other, and a proud moment in the Dettmann’s history.

Weston was an area which was pegged to be the next corridor of development, although this location would turn out to be a mistake.  Marge recalls “When we opened, there were us and maybe 10 other businesses covering about 1 square mile.  I would sit in the store for hours looking at empty fields just waiting to hear a car coming down the gravel road. I was so excited when a customer did come that they were probably overwhelmed by my enthusiasm”.  But customers did come. One at first, then another, and then another.  The business was growing, but the Dettmann’s soon realized they needed a higher traffic location, so in 1979 they moved the store to 120 Scott st. in the heart of Downtown Wausau, and business immediately picked up.  It was a wise move.  Weston was a nice area, but it would take another 15 years for it to develop.  The downtown location got attention right away, and the shop grew.  The building was around 80 years old and had a leaky roof, but it worked out fine for about 4 years, during which the store branched off into many gift items to accent the clocks.  By 1981 the Fine Clock Shop carried a large line of music boxes and had a huge nautical brass section, but things were about to change again.  The rent on the building was going up, so Richard & Marge started looking for a building to buy.  In early 1982 they bought the old Stolze printing building at 629 Jefferson st., which was a 100 year old historic building, but also needed 100 years worth of renovations.  After 3 months of planning, a 6 month renovation project began, and the building was transformed into a beautiful retail store with 2 apartments overhead.  Careful attention was made to keep as much of the original charm as possible, and upon completion the Dettmann’s received a certificate from the historical society for recognition of their efforts.  The new store opened in late 1982.  During their years at this location, the inventory doubled and by the 1990 there was collection of genuine German beer steins, lead crystal, Hummel’s, Framed prints, Statues, Greeting cards, Watches, Pewter, Chinese furniture and accent pieces, stuffed animals, and a children’s toy line including real wooden doll houses & furniture.  But the thing that really caught the public’s attention was the vast inventory of collector dolls.  The largest collection in the state, you could find everything from Madam Alexander to World doll, and with well over 300 dolls on display, People came from all over Wisconsin.  There was also an entire separate wing devoted to dinette & dining room sets, and by 1991 a large line of curio cabinets was added.  In the late 1980’s their son Dave opened a jewelry store adjacent to the shop called Buried Treasure Jewelers which sold fine jewelry at discount prices.  The store was truly a sight to see. 

Richard & Marge decided to retire and move to Florida, so in 1994 they sold the business to their son Dave who had been with them from the beginning.  They also had 2 other sons, Daniel & Matthew who both worked in the business for a time, but both had long since moved on to different careers with Dan becoming a teacher in Milwaukee with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and Matt becoming a Foley artist at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, California.

Dave & his wife Wendy ran the store at that location until the summer of 1996 when they purchased a building in the fast growing area of Wausau known as the Town of Rib Mountain, so named for its famous ski hill.  The current inventory was to vast to fit at the new location, and many things that sold in the 1970’s & 80’s no longer had any appeal, so they decided to hold an auction to reduce the unnecessary stock and make the move easier.  A team of auctioneers was brought in, but as it turned out it took 3 separate auctions to sell everything that needed to be sold.  There was even a used appliance business that needed to be sold off.  Dave realized that the store had gotten away from its roots, so when Wendy & Dave opened the new and final location at 5103 Lilac ave. in Rib Mountain, it was mostly all clocks, although they still included watches, Dolls, Music boxes, beer steins, statues & pewter figurines.  Due to the growth of the area, they hardly ever had to advertise again, and word of mouth kept customers coming right up until their retirement in December of 2005.  Dave says “Although the store is now gone, the memory of all the wonderful people we met over those 28 years will never fade.  We had the best customers in the world, and are thankful to each of them. Thank you again everyone and may God bless you all.”