For well over half a century, Hillsville and Carroll County residents have always been able to turn to one man for their jewelry and watch repair needs. Since 1955, Clayton Stockner has provided those services, first at Montgomery Jewelry, and for the last two decades at Lemons’ Jewelry in the Hickory Hills Shopping Center.
Cynthia Blevins, Manager of Lemons’ Jewelry, said Stockner came to work for Lemons’ when Montgomery closed in 1992. Now 80 years old, the soft-spoken and friendly Stockner didn’t miss a beat when he made the transition. She said many customers come to Lemons’ specifically because of him.
“He’s the heart of our business here. We have business because of him,” Blevins said. “Jewelry stores are jewelry stores, but by having him for the watch repairs and the reputation he’s had in the community, people trust him. People come here just for him.”
Stockner’s range of expertise varies from engraving watches, trays, knives and even Bibles to sautering rings, necklaces, bracelets and the like. About the only thing he doesn’t do for Lemons’ is stonesetting. Ironically, Blevins said the stores’ stonesetter comes to Stockner whenever he needs watch repair services because it is a trade that is becoming so hard to find these days.
While Stockner only works part-time now, he is still extremely dedicated to his craft. So much so that he says he has worked every Saturday since 1955.
“He is 80 years old and still works every day. You can’t hardly make him take a day off,” Blevins said. “That’s something you don’t find anymore.”
Blevins has always known how valuable Stockner is to the business and community, but that thought was realized tenfold when the repairman was out for nearly a year recently because of cancer.
“It was a nightmare. It was rough because we sent people to other places,” Blevins said. “During his chemotherapy he got the shingles and almost died. We are so blessed to have him back. Everybody that comes through that door asks ‘Where’s Clayton? What are you going to do when does stop?’ We don’t think about that. We had a taste of that and we didn’t like it. But the fact is there is nobody to take his place.”
Stockner honed his craft for watch repairs through GI Training he received after his military service during the time of the Korean War. He joked that he spent a short amount of time after that in Fort Knox, Kentucky “because that’s where the money was.” A Fancy Gap native, he moved back to Carroll County to work for Mr. Montgomery at his jewelry shop. Through necessity, he added the ability to repair jewelry and engraving to his watch repair expertise.
“I’ve been doing this since 1955. It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” Stockner said. “I love it. It’s been my life all my life. I just like doing this type of work - jewelry, watch-making, engraving or whatever.”
Now an octogenarian, Stockner admits he can’t do some of the things he used to do such as mechanical chronographs.
“I can’t even remember how to put them back together now,” Stockner joked. “But I enjoy doing what I do. I love the people. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get out and meet people. This is one way to get out and meet them.”
Watch repair can be very challenging, Stockner said. Most of the timepieces he gets now are 100 years or older, family heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations.
“It can be challenging, but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. It makes a world of difference if you are doing something you enjoy so I guess I ought to be thankful,” he said. “I am just very thankful Mr. Lemons lets me work. I won’t be able to do this for many years longer.”
Blevins hopes that day is still a long way off. She began working with Stockner in 1999, but has known him for many years as her parents and Stockner are neighbors.
“He is more like a second father than just a co-worker. He is very special,” Blevins said. “He does a lot of things people don’t realize. And he will do the most menial thing. Most of the people out here repairing jewelry, it has to be substantial or you have to buy it from them. They won’t work on just anything. But that is not the way he does, he will work on anything. He’s just a very humble person and he will do anything for anybody that he can.”