|By Jim Fisher
Since 1978, Beacham's Clock Co., owned and operated by Ed and Kathi Beacham, has been building and repairing clocks for customers throughout the United States and around the world. This year as they recognize their 35th anniversary in Sisters, their reputation as masters of their profession is stronger than ever.
At any one time, more than 1,000 clocks can be seen at their business location at the corner of West Hood Avenue and South Oak Street. Some clocks are old and some are new; many are for sale while others are being repaired. For anyone stopping at their store, it is both a visit to a fantasy world of clocks and an opportunity to view the work of a skilled professional craftsman.
The story of the Beacham's Clock Co. began when Ed Beacham was born in Durham, California. He was raised on his parent's dairy farm before the family moved to southern Oregon, settling on a farm near Eagle Point, just north of Medford. Ed attended school there from the seventh grade until his high school graduation from Eagle Point High School in 1966.
It was in high school that he had his first introduction to the world of clocks. In an industrial arts class, he was given the assignment of making his first clock. He had been making hydroplane boats for racing on the Rogue River, but his wood class instructor assigned him the task of making a grandfather clock so he could learn cabinet skills. Ed enjoyed cabinet work, but wanted to get more into precision woodworking. Growing up on a farm, he had experience repairing machinery and motors, but the world of clock-making was completely foreign to him. He knew no one in the clock business or anyone who collected clocks. He also was uncertain if the clock business would be a viable career to follow.
After graduation he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1970 and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force base in Santa Maria, California. There, two events helped chart his career. First, during his after-duty hours he began building the cabinet for his second clock in a woodworking hobby shop on the base. The hobby shop coordinator was impressed with the quality of his work and the way he helped others in their projects. He hired Ed to assist the other hobbyists as Ed finished his own project building the second clock of his career.
By the time he completed this project he had gained a reputation as a skilled clock repairman. People began bringing their clocks to him to repair. From repairing clocks, he began making replacement parts, and then moved on to making six more clocks.
"This was a logical progression," Ed recalls.
Another significant event at this time occurred when he met Kathleen Mae DeKorte. Kathi had been born in Ashland, Oregon, and had moved with her family to California. The couple married in 1970 and Kathi became his partner on and off the job.
A year later the couple moved to Corvallis where Ed graduated from Oregon State University in 1973 with a BA in industrial arts, with Kathi working to support his education. Ed was named a member of Epsilon Pi Tau, an honorary fraternity of the top 10 percent of industrial arts students in the nation.
Originally, he had considered a career teaching industrial arts influenced by his high school industrial arts teacher. He was offered a job as an industrial arts instructor at Corvallis High School, but he was concerned about the limited opportunities for teaching the subject because of the small number of students it reached. Besides, their clock repair business located in their home was becoming very successful. For four years the couple continued to operate a growing clock repair business providing them income and allowing them time to serve as volunteer youth ministers at the Northwest Hills Baptist Church in Corvallis.
In 1978, the couple made the decision to relocate to Sisters and open Beacham's Clock Co. When asked why Sisters was chosen as a location for their business, Ed has a ready answer:
"When we were living in Corvallis, I was a frequent visitor to Central Oregon to do rock climbing at Smith Rock. Every time I came here, the sun was shining. It looked like a great place to live and run a business. Sisters was an inspirational place to live and it was a growing art community"
Ed recalls how he and Kathi looked closely at the advantages and disadvantages of starting their business in the small town of Sisters as opposed to a larger city like Bend. Choosing a larger city would have made it challenging to select a specific location within the city and then having to advertise this location to potential customers. In a smaller community, they would be more visible and recognizable as they built their reputation. Today, they have no doubt that they made the right choice.
The Beachams found a business location to rent on West Hood Avenue where Ponderosa Properties is now located, just down the street from their current location. They were only the second business located on that street. The only other business on the street was Hoyt's Hardware & Building Supply, located then where Eurosports is now. All of the rest of the street was residences. The Beachams rented a house in Tollgate from a friend who had just built his vacation home.
With their clock-making business thriving, the Beachams built their own building in 1995 and 1996.
Ed's clock-making skills have been recognized through many prestigious awards. Since 1987, he has received 11 first-place ribbons, two second-places, one third-place, six gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal in international clock-making competition. In 1995, he won a first-place trophy in the Authentic Reproductions category in the Jewelers Association competition in New York, the only American entry recognized.
In 2003, the National Association for Watch and Clock Collectors presented him with the Dana Blackwell Award for Excellence in clock-making. In 2012, he was invited to speak at the association's national convention on his reproduction astronomical clock of the famous Prague Orloj, the 600-year-old clock in the Czech city's old town square.
Those who have purchased his clocks include Hollywood stars, business leaders, educators, and others from throughout the country. Each clock that he has made is numbered and is signed with his name, C. E. Beacham III. Currently, that number is 842.
Over the years, Ed and Kathi have carefully defined each person's responsibilities in their business. Ed conducts the clock-making operations while Kathi runs the business side, including operating their retail shop, keeping the books, setting up displays, cleaning the store, and helping customers. Another important job for her happens every Friday morning, when she rewinds the clocks using an atomic clock as a guide.
Reed Strickland, a former competitor in Bend, now runs his clock-repair business in the Beacham building, assisted by April Cosher. Andrew DeKeyser is a certified watch repairman, and Keaton Myrick is the local watch-maker also operating their own businesses, freeing Ed from these duties while providing services that customers expect.
A strong believer in education, Ed offers a rare opportunity for clock-makers, inviting other clock-making professionals to come to Sisters to spend a short time improving their skills in the craft. These professionals come from all over the country. Ed sees himself becoming more active in the education field of clock-making.
For customer and visitors to Beachman's Clock Co., their greatest thrill is to visit the store at 12 noon any day that they are open, to hear the chimes of the many clocks as they announce the mid-day time. It is a rare treat that visitors will not soon forget.