In Store: Neighborhood Watch

Tiempo fixes timepieces and jewelry and brings a neighborhood together

Tiempo does not repair clocks (only watches), but they do sell them. Photograph by Andrew Waits for City Arts.

It is a Saturday afternoon at Tiempo, and owner Jody Laine has a crowd waiting to order repairs to timepieces, buy new ones or pick up fixed pieces at the tiny Capitol Hill shop.

“Does anyone want a complimentary cup of coffee?” she shouts. “If you want a free cup of coffee while you wait, go to the coffee shop next door and tell them Jody sent you.”

The boisterous owner has a running tab at Porchlight Coffee next door and a similar setup with Old School Frozen Custard around the corner for the summer months when, she says, business picks up considerably.

Laine, her hair grey and spiky, her frames thick and green, is a whirling dervish behind the glass display case, which holds a variety of watches from Swiss Army, Citizen, Colibri, Skagen and many more. While she generally only works on Saturdays, leaving much of the repair work to her knowledgeable staff, Laine knows her customers. She recognizes their voices on the phone and takes care to give attention, and colored pencils, to any children who walk in her door. She also makes sure her customers know their timepieces, producing laminated diagrams to explain how a watch works and how she made it work better.

Laine does more than fix, though. She opened Tiempo thirteen years ago after graduating from North Seattle Community College’s watchmaker program. Before that, Laine spent twenty years in theatre, and her love of performance has remained. When not working at Tiempo, she can be found playing ukulele with a group at the senior center in West Seattle or making documentary films, the latest of which is about lesbian mother custody cases in the 1970s. In the shop, she is a Jill of all trades; the tall display case in the middle of the room holds knives and jewelry she has made.

You will also find that jewelry on the hands of her customers, one of whom, Mary, came in during a recent rush to have a link removed from a bracelet she had acquired on a trip to Japan with her husband. She shows me her wedding ring, three slim bands held together in four spots “that represent the four corners of the world, because my husband and I love to travel.” Laine not only designed and made the ring, she also, according to Mary, advised the husband on how to pop the question.

“This place is definitely more culture than commerce,” Laine says, laughing. “This is all art; it’s surrealism, you just wouldn’t know it.” •

Tiempo 1511 14th Ave.,206.726.8551,