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Neighbors
Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019 6 months ago

From cheers to chimes: Livingston's owner transitions into antique clock business

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Larry Adami failed at retirement. Now, he's taken his lifelong passion and made it a storefront on Pineapple Avenue.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

The second hand crept ever closer to the hour. Nearby, a not-so-casual observer stands, alternating between wringing his hands and cramming them into his pockets.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

With a furrowed brow, the man’s eyes darted from the face to the second hand, which is now passing the 6.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

It’s at the 9 now. He leaned forward in anticipation.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

The second hand hit  the 12 and the 200-year-old clock erupted in sound, playing the Westminster Quarters, the same tune its biggest brother, Big Ben, sounds in London. At last, the man breathed, a proud smile unfurling across his face.

Nearly 300 clocks in the quaint Burns Square building could go off next. None of them are set to the correct time, producing a new chime every few minutes.

All of them are ticking, causing a clamor many would find anxiety-provoking, but to Larry Adami, owner of Antique Clock Emporium and the watcher of the antique that just sounded off, it’s a beautiful cacophony.

Adami, who first struck success in Sarasota with Livingston’s Amusement Center on Clark Road, opened the emporium recently  after finding retirement boring.

Each of the clocks comes from his collection, which previous to opening the Pineapple Avenue storefront, lined his home.

“They took over my kitchen, my dining room, my office, the hallways. There was a path to walk through the home around the clocks,” Adami said. “My wife is glad I have a store and have it all out of the house, but she did see the beauty in all of them.”

While he has collected them by the dozens, his love of clocks hasn’t been lifelong — it began with a visit to an antique store when he was 30.

This malachite clock from 1790 is Larry Adami's favorite.

“I just found a clock that I thought would look nice on my mantel and purchased it,” he said. “Then there was number two, and then there was 50. Then there was 100, and I wasn’t able to stop.”

Now, his store is overflowing with rarities such as Guilloche enamel clocks, Atmos clocks and automatons.

The clocks come from countries as near as Canada and as foreign as former Czechoslovakia, spanning back to the 1600s.

His favorite, though, is an online purchase he made four years ago — a French Empire clock set in malachite, a green banded mineral.

The clock, which dates back to 1790, is on sale for $16,500. The sticker price, Adami says, is half what it should be.

“Malachite clocks are extremely rare, which is why I love this one,” he said. “I’d be able to let it go, but there might be a few tears in my eyes.”

The obsession with collecting is nothing new, said estate liquidator and Antiques & Chatchkes owner Ken Davidson. In fact, collecting is usually a way to form a bridge to the past.

“Lots of people collect items, usually something that stems from a memory,” Davidson said. “It could be something from their childhood, an item that their grandma had. Usually, the collected item triggers fond memories.”

The memories for Adami are not of his family, though. He prefers to think of what the clocks must have meant for original owners — such as one he owns that was commissioned for the Knights Templar.

Clocks, Davidson said, are a commonly collected item, though perhaps not in as rare a fashion as seen with Adami.

“I think for a long time, people have been fascinated with the idea of time,” Davidson said. “So, people often collect not only for the love of the beauty found in antique clocks, but because they also love time.”

And while Adami is fixated on time, it is not of time lost. Just like he says you should never wind a clock backward, Adami is focusing on the future clocks he will come across.

“I’ll always have a fetish for them,” he said. “There’s millions of clocks, so you’ll never find them all, never see them, but I am happy every time I find a new one.”

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

The brief intermission is over. A new clock is warming up, preparing for its moment in the spotlight, and the waiting game begins again.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

The clicking and whirring is disorienting as each ornate face demands attention. He points. “It’ll be that brown one in the case over there.”

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Arms crossed, weight on his heels, he is more relaxed this time. The hand is now just a few hops from the 12.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

The hour strikes and the automaton begins to move, beating its anvil as the hour is tolled. Again, a smile stretches across his face.

“I will never get tired of this.”

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