Morris Murphy quietly sat hunched over a bench in the middle of Bart’s Flea Market and looked closely at a disassembled pocket watch. Thick glasses and different degrees of magnify lenses sat right below his gray hair to help him see the super small pieces. As Murphy worked to put the tiny sections together July 10, he recalled how the internet has affected the watch and jewelry industry.
“Four years ago, I moved down to Garfield Street, across from Bank of the West, into a nice store,” he said as he reached into one of the many drawers full of pocket watch pieces.
“I remodeled it, made it into a nice place for people to come and shop. But in the last couple of years, all of our sales of jewelry have just disappeared, dried up and gone away because of the internet.”
Even with quickly fading jewelry store fronts, Murphy found a way to fill a niche in the industry while still remaining out in public.
“We still get a lot of people bringing us repair work,” he said just as a potential customer stopped by to admire a case full of unique jewelry items. “They buy rings and watches and things on the internet and bring them to me to get them fixed and sized, but they don’t buy them from me. I got all the repair work I can do, plus some. I am behind on repairs all the time, it never goes away. You can’t farm that out to the internet.”
Even though all of the booths at Bart’s don’t have owners working out of them daily, Murphy wanted to do something different. He fitted the booth with all the equipment needed to run his repair shop called Murphy’s Mountain Jewelers, which he moved into about three months ago.
“As you can see, I got a lot of electricity here to run all of my equipment,” he said as he pointed out the electrical outlets that he had to install. “I had to put in new cabinets and of course we had to paint, make things presentable to the public.”
Murphy opened up the different drawers on the bench, showing off all the varieties of watch and jewelry pieces he collected throughout the last 40 years.
“You can’t just call up and order parts for these old watches,” he said holding up an old pocket watch. You have to have them on hand, and if you don’t have a part for that, and you don’t have it in a drawer somewhere, you won’t get it.”
Murphy proudly showed off the different equipment he had set up in his booth.
“Over the years, I have purchased old watch tools for doing specialty work on old watches,” he said as he held up a piece of equipment that helps fit pocket watch bows.
As Murphy demonstrated how it works, he recalled how fixing this type of item is a fading craft.
“Nobody knows this stuff, because they don’t teach this in grade school — they don’t teach this stuff much of anywhere anymore,” he said. “Well, there are a couple watch schools around the country, but they don’t teach the old pocket watch stuff. They are teaching people how to work on the new quartz watches.”
He walked over to a second bench and discussed how he works on more than just watches.
“I do goldsmithing, silversmithing, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds,” he said. “I don’t do clock repair anymore, I did a lot of clock repair over the years, but I just don’t have a place for it anymore and its very time consuming.”
To end the tour, Murphy walked to the front case and pointed out a couple pieces.
“I do the antiques and I do the new stuff as long as my health will allow me to,” he said as he held out his hands, “so far, I still got a steady hand and a good eye, but I use a lot of magnifiers to do things.”