Customers of Sam Medawar say “there’s nothing Sam can’t do” when it comes to clocks and watches, whether building or repairing them. Since childhood, Sam has developed an in-depth knowledge of the workings of timepieces, starting in his father, Chakib’s, store in Beirut, Lebanon, and being paid a quarter to take a device apart, and a dollar to put it back together. What started as a way of earning pocket money evolved into a lifelong passion for the craft.
By the age of 18, Sam had become an expert by immersing himself in timepiece repair on the weekends and in the evenings after school. When he went to California in 1970 for college, he got a part-time job doing repair for Seiko. “When you grow up in the business, it becomes a part of you,” he says.
After college, Sam returned to Lebanon, where his family owned three stores and his brother owned a clock factory. But soon, the Medawar family’s life was turned upside down by the civil war in Lebanon. In 1975, tensions between various factions in Lebanon came to a head, causing an exodus of more than a million people from the country. The Medawar family were among them, with their shops a casualty of the arson that was common at that time.
“I had to start over again,” Sam says. “I came to Lansing because my wife’s sister had married to a gentleman from here. We came to visit them on our way to California. My wife, daughter and I got here in the spring, and I thought, ‘This is a beautiful place.’ It was between settling in California and in Michigan and I chose Michigan.” Sam took a risk by moving to Michigan before he had a job lined up, but the war in his home country had left him with no choice in the matter. “Many jewelers I talked to when I was looking for a job said they didn’t have enough work for me,” he says. “But I told myself, ‘I’m not going to give up.’”
The enterprising young man went to jeweler Bud Marks, owner of Gem Jewelry in downtown Lansing at the time, and asked if he could put up a bench of his own in his shop. Bud agreed, and Sam got lumber from K-Mart, built the bench himself, put a sign in Bud’s window, “Now offering watch repair,” and within a few months, jewelers all over Michigan were sending so many watches to him for repair that he had more work than he could possibly do alone. “I was working day and night at my personal shop and I couldn’t catch up.” Sam had a plan.
“I called my younger brother Pierre, who was in California, and asked him to come to Michigan to help me. Pierre then moved here, and we opened our first store in Michigan together on Saginaw Street in West Lansing. We opened our second store in Haslett and I eventually moved that store to the current location across from the Frandor Shopping Center, and Pierre was on West Saginaw.” Sam says. “I’ve found the Lansing area to be a very supportive community, and I am very blessed to be a part of it.”
After the move across from Frandor, Medawar Jewelers blossomed. Medawar became an authorized representative of many worldrenowned brands, and Sam’s reputation carried far and wide, to the point where jewelers far beyond Michigan started sending him watches to repair. The store expanded, to the point where 50 jewelry display cases greet customers when they enter the store and Medawar Jewelers is known for its vast selection of fine jewelry and timepieces.
Not only is Sam a Swiss certified watchmaker who is certified to service over 18 Swiss watches, but he is also an inventor. Sam holds many patents of products he had created out of necessity that were not available in the market at the time. Many of his patents are used today in the jewelry industry and in others. “My love for watches turned into my love for creating things needed in my daily life, and I have my father to thank for instilling in me the love to tinker.”
A true innovator, Sam says he tried to retire about five years ago, but his love of creating brought him back. “As much as I love fishing, I love working on watches and spending time at the store with my wife and kids more, and I don’t know how to golf.” Sam laughs. “I find joy and relaxation in creating things others will wear or use in their daily life, and I love it when they find joy in the creations I’ve made for them. I’ll never stop inventing,” he says. “I love it too much.”