Nyack Sketch Log: Hickory Dickory Dock

by Bill Batson

Every ornament, toy and clock in Hickory Dickory Dock tells a story. Once you pass under the canopied entrance of 43 South Broadway, passing through a gauntlet of wind chimes, you enter a forest of handcrafted collectibles. Some of the objects invoke fairy tales, others honor folklore and some have a direct link to the customs that shaped how Christians in America celebrate Christmas.

Twenty five years ago, attorney and civic leader John Costa learned that a Nyack couple was no longer able to manage their small clock shop. Costa had always been interested in clock making and his parents had owned a small retail shop in Bergen County when he was a child.

Because of the demands of his law practice, Costa had to convince his wife to support the venture. As a painter and graphic artist, Norma Costa had an affinity for the aesthetics and craftsmanship required to sell and restore clocks. Over the years, she has developed an aptitude for the mechanics of clock making and oversees their repair shop. Their daughter Loreen, who has traveled to Germany annually for the last twenty years to build relationships with the craftspeople that make their clocks and collectibles, manages the day-to-day operation.

The business is in its third location. They started out in half of the space that is now the Runcible Spoon. Their next venue was at the corner of Franklin Ave. and Main St. that has since become Murasaki restaurant. In 1999, they moved into the building that was once White’s funeral home.

“This is a perfect location for us” said Loreen. “A rectangular store creates a conveyor belt where people move quickly up one side and down the other, but the nooks and crannies of this old building allow people to linger and settle in to the store.”

The floors, shelves, walls and display cases of Hickory Dickory Dock hold hundreds of toys, seasonal decorations, nutcrackers, beer steins and jewelry, but clocks dominate the space. There are clocks for the wall, floor, desk and mantle. The constant movement of dials and pendulums and the music of clocks marking time are the soundtrack of the store. “We try to avoid the cacophony of having them set to chime at the same time, but we make sure that when you’re in the store, one of our clocks is always speaking to you,” Loreen said.

Hickory Dickory Dock represents some of the finest clock makers in the world including Chelsea of Boston, Comitti of London, Hermle of Germany and Howard Miller of Zeeland, Michigan.

But the centerpiece of the clock collection are the cuckoos. A back wall of the main room of the shop is covered, salon style with dozens of cuckoo clocks. The elaborate timepieces are the pride of the black forest in Germany, with their hand carved moving figurines and distinctive sound. The craftspeople of this region are credited with inventing clock making.

St. Nicholas and Krampus

During a family trip in 1995 to visit the family-run factories that produce the clocks that they sell, the Costas decided to expand their business to include holiday decorations. According to Costa, “Many of our Christmas traditions, from the Christmas tree to the practice of counting down the days that are a part of Advent are from Germany.” Our Santa Claus looks and behaves like their Saint Nicholas, who in German legend fills shoes that children leave out with sweets. A major difference in our Christmas custom is the character of Krampus. Where our Santa withholds gifts from those on the naughty list, in German folklore krampus visits bad children to deliver a lump of coal and a few whacks with a thin switch.

Hickory Dickory Dock now has decorations for a variety of seasonal holidays, and works with crafts people from around the world. What all of the items have in common is that they share the stories of the families and regions of the craftspeople who create them.

And while the Costas have spent years developing relationships with artists and crafts people, Loreen knows that the real story begins when someone comes into her shop. “When one of our customers selects an item to be a part of their family holiday tradition or to a honor a special event like a birth, that object becomes part of their familiy’s story,” Costa proudly acknowledged.

Hickory Dickory Dock will be open seven days a a week until Christmas.

The cuckoo clock in my sketch was made in Germany by Anton Schneider.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” Hickory Dickory Dock” © 2012 Bill Batson.

The Nyack Sketch Log is sponsored by The Corner Frame Shop at 40 South Franklin Street in Nyack, NY.