Dallas Life: Repairman is cuckoo for cuckoo clocks

Meg Roussos/Staff Photographer
Nicholas Marchesoni works in the family business, Heritage House Clocks in Dallas and is an expert on German cuckoo clocks.
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I was going through some things in storage and my eye caught a box with tissue paper cradling something very dear to me — my Swiss chalet-style cuckoo clock. The tiny music box inside stopped cooing one day, and the clock went into holding mode.

I didn’t know where in the world to take it for repairs.

A search led to one of the few really good cuckoo-repair shops right here in Dallas. Not everyone specializes in these animated, pendulum-regulated works of art from the Black Forest region of Germany.

The sound of that bird cooing softly on the hour takes me back to my grandmother’s home. It was a pure thrill to watch the bird emerge from a wooden door surrounded by hand-carved characters.

The elongated pine cone weights were strictly off-limits. My grandmother wouldn’t let anyone yank them, which made it even more tempting.

She guarded that clock. I realize now it was because she loved the clock and didn’t want the parts damaged by a bunch of rug rats.

Nicholas Marchesoni of Heritage House Clocks, an expert in cuckoo clocks, told me that the clocks are hand-crafted in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. Originally, they were made in the dead of winter; in the spring, salesmen would go door-to-door selling them.

Imagine answering the doorbell to find a man selling cuckoo clocks. I’ll take that any day over somebody selling vacuums or a stale chocolate bar.

“The local clock guy would go door-to-door and not only would he be selling cuckoo clocks, he would come in and wind, oil and even adjust grandfather clocks,” Marchesoni says.

Marchesoni’s family clock business is approaching 40 years in the Dallas area. His father, engineer Valentino Marchesoni, left Texas Instruments to start his business.

He and his wife, Linda, opened an art and frame shop. One Christmas, each gave the other a beautiful clock.

“They realized they had a bit of a passion for clocks, and they started selling more clocks,” Marchesoni says. “My dad also realized that he had a knack for repairing them.”

Marchesoni is one of six kids and the only one who works in the business. He shares the family passion for clocks, traveling to shows and conventions to learn more about clocks of all kinds, especially cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest. He’s ready for anything when it comes to repairs.

“We’ve had them come through the door in pieces with gears all exploded out,” he says.

In one case, two men attempted to tear down and rebuild a cuckoo that had become badly damaged.

“They only got so far as the tear-down stage,” Marchesoni says.

They gave up and brought the clock in for cuckoo triage.

“The good thing about cuckoo clocks is that they go back together easily,” Marchesoni says. “They are a lot of fun, and there are a lot of different styles and varieties. The Germans are always surprising us, though, with their designs.”

Any special cuckoos that he would like to get his hands on?

“We actually have one in right now that I was very excited to get into,” he says.

“It’s the largest clock that we have in, and it’s the very traditional hunters cuckoo with the animals and stag head on it,” he says. “It would have been a collaborative piece with several people working on it, and it was made by Dold of the Black Forest. I was just real glad to see it.”

The clocks usually need servicing just from getting dusty and dirty over the years. After servicing, a cuckoo can keep time for up to 15 years.

These clocks really take people back.

“People remember pulling the chains and watching the bird as children, and it’s fascinating to see their reaction when they get their clock back,” Marchesoni says. “It’s like they are a kid all over again.”

I can tell he loves keeping these remarkable clocks going. At the age of 34, he’s figured out what makes him tick. I’d say that’s making good time.

Clare Miers is a Dallas freelance writer.

Heritage House Clocks, 14450 Midway Road, Dallas. heritagehouseclocks.com

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