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By Mike Hazlip–
Times were changing when Nick Konstantinov left his home country of Moldova in the former Soviet Union and opened a watch repair shop in Citrus Heights.
Konstantinov, now 52, left his homeland in 1992 with his wife and their 5-month-old daughter around the time the Soviet Union collapsed. The young 24-year-old was seeking new opportunities in the United States and decided to continue the family business.
“Growing up, I used to play with the clock wheels, disassemble, put them back,” Konstantinov remembers. “When I came here I decided to open.”
After moving into a home on Marconi Avenue, Konstantinov opened Express Watch and Clock Repair at 7660 Greenback Lane in 1995, located one block east of San Juan High School. He decided on the location because of the high volume of traffic and took over the space from a video store that had gone out of business. He’s been there ever since and doesn’t plan to move.
Konstantinov said it wouldn’t have been possible to open his business in the former Soviet Union, but although times have now changed, he’s established roots in Citrus Heights and plans to stay.
“I’m settled here, so I don’t want to go back there,” he said. “And I like the weather in California.”
Citrus Heights became a city shortly after Konstantinov opened his repair shop, and he remembers the event favorably, saying he was proud of the effort for the city to declare its independence.
Traffic along Greenback Lane has since increased, and the walls of the former video store are adorned with all manner of clocks. Much of the floor is occupied with grandfather clocks, standing in rows like time-keeping sentinels, leaving a small space at the glass counter for customers.
The oldest clock is from the 1840s, Konstantinov says. He picked it up at an estate sale in Placer County a decade ago. It stands a little more than six feet tall and is missing the face. He’s currently working to make it functional again.
Pointing to a clock on the wall with leaves carved out of wood and two figures that emerge from above the face to strike the chimes, Konstantinov says it’s about a half-century old, and his favorite because of the antique style and design.
Many of Konstantinov’s customers have been coming in for years, some of whom won’t trust anyone else in town with their heirloom time pieces, he says. Customers bring in vintage clocks and watches for repair, although the most common repair is battery replacement. Small adjustments are often made at no charge.
Konstantinov had to close his business for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic, but he says customers are slowly returning. He estimates losing about 60% to 65% of his business from the shutdown.
Reflecting on his last 28 years in the United States, Konstantinov said he’s proud to have made it.
“I came here, I learned my A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s, and I have my English. I can speak, I can understand. Everything was ok, so I can’t complain,” he said. “What can I complain about? The best country in the whole world. I’m proud of it.”
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