Tucked away in a North Loop warehouse, just across the street from the Bachelor Farmer, is a quirky little museum that’s open just one day a month.
The space is filled with Black Forest German cuckoo clocks, mantel clocks, and grandfather clocks, as well as vintage Edison record players, organs, polished rocks, and other knick knacks. It's all part of the collection of Jim Fiorentino, a 94-year-old former businessman who has a passion for hand crafted clocks and antiques.
The ornate pieces are adorned with delicate wood trim, haunting animal figures, and other intricate craftsmanship. There’s also quite a collection of musical machines, from record players to vintage radios, and a giant Dutch carnival display with huge mechanical dolls that dance to music.
“There were no blueprints for this,” says Fiorentino’s great nephew, Gregg Fiorentino. “This is one man’s vision over 30 years.”
The elder Fiorentino bought the building in 1958 from Honeywell. He used the space to houseCustom Door Sales, his garage door family business. In 1985, Gregg’s father took over the business and moved the headquarters to New Hope. From there, the empty warehouse became the new home for Jim’s collections.
According to Gregg, his great uncle didn’t start seriously accumulating his clock collection until the 1980s. Jim never left the Midwest; he accumulated his collection from visiting estate sales. Most of the clocks are from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s.
He often did repairs on the clocks himself. However, if he did make repairs, he wouldn’t stain the wood. You can tell the elements that he added to each of the clocks due to their different color.
“He wanted everybody to know that he was as talented as the people that made these wonderful beautiful clocks that he admired,” Gregg says.
A decade before that, his main passion had been rocks. Jim had built a machine that could carve them into perfectly shaped balls, which are on display at the museum. There are also original wood carving pieces by the collector, as well as a woodworking made by Gregg’s great grandfather.
About a year ago Jim set up the James J. Fiorentino Foundation, which will support the clock collection. “This will be here forever,” Gregg says. “We own the building outright, and it’s open to the public one day per month.”
Currently based in California, Gregg, who is president of the foundation, flies back to Minnesota to host open houses on Sundays. They get quite a bit of traffic from diners at Bachelor Farmer and other people walking about the Warehouse District, and hope to attract more as they continue to make improvements to the inside and outside of the building. That includes commissioning an artwork for the wall facing North Second Avenue.
“This is the best corner in the North Loop,” he says.
The current plan is that Jim’s large endowment will be used to fund charity projects each year. While Gregg says they haven’t figured out exactly the focus of what charitable causes the foundation will cover, he mentions they have talked about woodworking and trade scholarships, cerebral palsy research, and turkey giveaways at Thanksgiving. Another possibility includes setting up artists' spaces in the building.