Craftsman Nikos Sideris works in his shop in Athens, Greece, on May 4, 2018. A shop specializing in repairing antique watches and clocks managed to overcome the economic crisis and carry on a legacy of 90 years, despite the surge of business closures that hit Athens in the last eight years. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
By Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, May 4 (Xinhua) -- A hidden treasure shop specializing in repairing antique watches and clocks managed to overcome the economic crisis and carry on a legacy of 90 years, despite the surge of business closures that hit Athens in the last eight years.
In the city's "commercial triangle", as the capital's central retail district is known, in Voulis street next to Syntagma square, the shop of the 37-year-old craftsman Nikos Sideris is all about time machines.
Countless clocks, cuckoo, French clocks, longcase clocks, pocket watches, wrist watches, carriage clocks, chronometers, wall clocks are ticking in there.
He is the third generation of watch craftsmanship in the family after his grandfather Nikos Sideris opened the shop in 1928 and passed it later to his son Ioannis.
"My grandfather opened the store 90 years ago and had many famous people as clients, politicians, diplomats and rich people. He was famous as he had installed many big clocks in main public buildings in Athens and other cities. I learned my craft from my father and my grandfather," Sideris told Xinhua.
"Now the work is not like the old times, it has dropped, but there is demand. We repair vintage watches for individual customers, but also we have collaboration with the Old Parliament House, the National Observatory of Athens and the Athens Club to repair the collection of old clocks they have," he added.
Greece has the largest number of small and medium-sized businesses within the EU, and most of them are family businesses operating in traditional sectors of the national economy such as retail trade, services, and construction.
As youth unemployment remains blight on the Greek economy, this business model has been a safety net for the young people who enter the labor market for many years. But, with plunging profits and skyrocketing taxes during the eight years of the crisis, many families were forced to close down their businesses.
Over 100,000 businesses have closed down in the years of the crisis, according to the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce.
Sideris managed to survive with many difficulties and shortcuts by keeping alive a lost art, according to many, by using specific processes and materials to avoid any intrusive work on historical clocks that date back even since 1800 or 1900.
"By repairing an old watch, I feel satisfied. It is like giving back to the customer a memory since that old object belonged to a loved one," he said.
While he had offers to work for large watch companies in Greece and abroad, he turned them down because they asked him to close his business.
"My family business is part of the history, and I feel that I must continue it as a moral debt to my grandfather and father, to carry on their legacy and their efforts," he stressed.
Even though highly-skilled watch craftsmen have become an endangered species and young people turn to more fruitful career options, he feels optimistic for the future of his business.
The building of the Merchants' Insurance Fund where his shop is housed since 1928 is recognized and protected as a monument by the Central Archaeological Council (CAC) as part of an initiative to preserve the architectural heritage of Athens and especially buildings of the period 1830-1940.
With the tourist rise and the commercial activity in Athens city center showing signs of revival, he believes that he will be able to continue his family traditional business and if possible to pass his craft to the next generation and not to be lost.