AS DUST sparkled like diamonds in the beam of sunshine, the farmhouse attic’s treasures invited the brothers to sneak away from their play on their grandparents’ farm, trading outdoor exploring for indoors, even though the temperature inside was greater than summer’s heat at high noon. Dusty trunks, an old soldier’s uniform, a crank telephone, and a purse whose style was out of fashion sparked their imaginations with wonderings of another time. But the thing that spoke loudest to Russ Countess was the old Victrola. A few turns of its handle rewarded him with music long forgotten by local stations, and Countess’ love of treasures from another time was born.
He said, “I have many fond memories of my grandparents. I enjoyed trying to imagine what their lives were like so long ago. What was it like to make a phone call to an operator who then connected the call to a neighbor? What was it like for my family to sit around this Victrola, listening to records as entertainment?”
His interest in restoring family heirlooms set him on the path to a lifelong hobby turned small business. Countess and his wife, Natalie, moved to Shelbyville in 1991 to serve as youth and family ministers. In their early years of marriage, the couple often tracked down timeless pieces to restore, refinish, and repurpose.
In 1997, the desire to purchase a machine that initially engraved trophies and mementos became a specific goal. Russ saved up believing one day, there would be an opportunity to purchase an engraver. In 2001, that dream came true.
“For several years, I engraved various items as a hobby for a couple of stores in Shelbyville. The year 2015 brought a time of transition to the business,” Russ said. “With great faith, we began planning to turn this hobby into a full-time business. ‘Time’ was essential to this change, and we launched Time and Again as a family endeavor. “
Time and Again’s niche became clear following the request to engrave a pocket knife. The request led to high demand for this product. Looking to expand even further, they turned to claw hammers and hatchets. Those took off! They began selling hammers with messages like, “Pop, we love building memories with you.” Russ became known as “The Hammer Guy” by local suppliers. And when they added hatchets, “The Hammer Guy” also became known as “The Hatchet Man.”
A request for leather sheaths for the hatchets became an opportunity for Russ’s youngest son, Seth, to learn to create and hand stitch the sheaths. The products sold, and the company added a leather sewing machine to keep up with the demand, but the time spent working together as a family crafted memories for a lifetime.
Russ said, “It’s been said that men are so difficult to shop for. ‘That’s it!’ I thought. We’re going to focus on men’s gifts. That’s our goal: to provide quality personalized gifts for men. Our products now range from pocket knives, hammers, hatchets, barbecue spatulas, tumblers, and now the ever-so-popular genuine leather patch hats, just to mention a few.”
The entire Countess family has worked together for several years, and even now, as the children are grown and live in other places, they continue to do so. The whole family pitches in during the busiest times of the year, like Father’s Day, Christmas, and wedding season.
Natalie handles bookkeeping and product deliveries. Marissa and her husband, Cooper, manage the social media accounts and oversee the Little Rock, Arkansas location. Grant helps with spreadsheets and inventory and analyzes best-selling gifts, and Seth helps with new product creation and manages a booth in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Several friends have worked with the Countess family along the way. During 2020, like many, the company faced challenges. The supply chain issues forced them to look for alternative products. They decided to offer genuine leather patches on Richardson 112 hats instead of imitation leather patches, as seen in big retail. The leather patch hats have quickly grown to be a very popular item. The team grew to include Ron Longwell, who has been a highly valuable part of this process from start to finish.
Today, you can purchase personalized gifts from their website or locally in Shelbyville, as well as in six other locations across Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.
“I combine my specialty with customers’ personalized messages to produce creative items. We listen to our customers’ gift-giving sentiments and bring their thoughts into reality. A lot of what we do is literally up to the imagination,” Russ said. “It’s used for one time and purpose as it’s gifted, and then someday a child may open up a wooden box and find a pocket knife with his grandfather’s name from when he was a little boy. The list goes on and on. So that’s the concept of our small business. Who knows what imagination it might spark… time and again!” GN