Shop Local: Forty-One Years of Time Well Spent
NILES, Ohio – Time has a way of showing what is truly important.
As a child, Krissy Watts spent a significant amount of time at the Eastwood Mall in Niles, mostly concerned with shopping, going to movies and finding her next pet at Woolworth’s Department Store.
“I came out of there with so many gerbils my mom wanted to kill me,” Watts says.
When she wasn’t bringing home undesired pets, Watts was learning at the feet of her mother, Marilyn Brown, who owned the Qwik Fix Watch and Jewelry kiosk inside the mall.
Brown was working in real estate in 1981 when she saw that the business, then called Coopers Repair, was for sale. “It sparked my interest,” Brown says. “Real estate was slow at the time but the mall was just starting to grow.”
Brown read books and manuals and taught herself the trade, spending her days helping others to keep track of their time. “So I came in with her and was here a lot with her,” often accompanied by her older sister, Watts says.
The business specialized in watch and jewelry repair. It also offered repair and blade sharpening for men’s razors, all out of a solid oak kiosk.
Watts, who began to work at the kiosk in her early teens, says she entertained the idea of leaving the area and doing something else but found she “couldn’t imagine not being here.”
After training alongside her mother, and a jeweler who taught her how to do some of the larger repairs, she took over the business in 2004, allowing Brown to retire.
Along with the new owner came new offerings and a new kiosk with more display windows – and not made of solid oak. “Getting it out of here was a nightmare. It was so well built,” Watts says.
Today Qwik Fix repairs watches, jewelry, key fobs and garage remotes. “Pretty much anything with a battery,” Watts says. “As far as watches, we do everything from batteries to major overhauls such as watch movement replacement, crystal replacement. Everything.”
Watts says the way modern watches are built, it is often easier to replace parts than to repair them. “It’s much more cost-effective,” she says.
At the kiosk, Watts keeps a small set of drawers filled with parts and movements, allowing her to perform most repairs on-site. Parts she lacks are procured through a supplier in Cincinnati. “So when people are looking for something, I can do next-day special orders,” Watts says.
But the repairs are only one side of the business, the other side being the retail side that Watts has been perfecting over the years.
The current trend, and what fills the display cases at Qwik Fix, is flashy jewelry and big watches. Also popular are Cuban-link necklaces.
“We didn’t see them elsewhere in the mall. So you just have to go with what is trending,” Watts says. “Everything we have is under $600 and most is under $150.”
Watts says with the retail sales, her business is positioned to thrive in any economic climate. When the economy is good, sales of new watches and jewelry are strong.
When times are bad, “They fix that jewelry instead of buying new jewelry. So it balances itself out,” she says.
Ruchi Vinayak, Watts’ only employee, came on after the Great Recession in 2008. At the time, she sold purses at the kiosk next to Qwik Fix. “My business was down, down, down,” Vinayak says. “So she trained me for work and I closed my business and started a job with her.”
Vinayak says she and Watts “are like family.” She enjoys working at a business that has such strong relationships with its customers. “It’s not just from local people. People come from far away too,” Vinayak says.
Still, Watts says most customers on the retail side don’t come to the mall planning to make a purchase at Qwik Fix: “They see it and it’s an impulse buy.”
Which is what makes their home inside the Eastwood Mall, with its strong foot traffic, so important to the success of the business, Watts says. “They do a great job keeping businesses coming in and not having closed stores because when you go to a mall and see half of the stores closed, it’s depressing.”
Watts was forced to close Qwik Fix for two months during the shutdowns early in the pandemic. Once she and the mall were allowed to reopen, “Business picked right back up. Things picked up really quickly,” she says.
What has changed, however, is the shopping habits of consumers, Watts says. Instead of the long shopping days before the pandemic, Watts says consumers are getting their shopping done earlier and in shorter amounts of time, opting to return home to their families.
Since the pandemic Watts has shortened the business’s hours of operations to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., which she says “helps with payroll” and allows her and Vinayak more free time.
Watts has grown to appreciate the time she’s spent at Qwik Fix, as has her mother.
“I’ve had many wonderful memories over the years and met countless friends through the business,” Brown says. “I was able to employ both of my daughters while they were in high school and eventually retire after handing it over to Krissy.”
As her mother before her, Watts has two daughters and both spent a significant amount of time over the years at the kiosk helping their mother. “My kids came in here with me when they were little, just like I did with my mom,” Watts says.
And just as before, the younger daughter has begun to show an interest in the family business. “She likes to get out the scrap watches and work on them,” Watts says with a smile.
The sentiments of Watts and Brown make clear that the decades they’ve spent at Qwik Fix have brought the family closer together and given them countless good memories. They spent their time well.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to now see my grandchildren helping out when they can,” Brown says. “I hope it can stay in the family for many more years.”
Pictured: Krissy Watts repairs a watch at Qwik Fix Boutique in the Eastwood Mall.
Shop Local is sponsored by PNC and the Eastwood Mall Complex.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.