Perfect timing

A young couple finds love at a Tulsa clock shop, then carries on the legacy of its founders.



Travis and Talitha Grether

When clock shop owners Harley and Mary Hunter lost their longtime friend and principal clock repairman, Ron Hillstrom, to cancer in 2011, they were devastated.

Their business was affected, too. “We just couldn’t keep up with demand,” Harley says.

Clock repair is “a rare occupation” — an artistry that cannot be learned quickly, he explains. Years of observation and training are required for even the most mechanically minded people to pick up on such a precise craft. (Good clock repair-people don’t even identify as such, Harley notes. They insist they are merely “tinkerers.”)

So replacing Hillstrom wasn’t as simple as placing a “help wanted” ad. In fact, the Hunters decided to retire and close Grandfather’s Clock Gallery and Clinic, the shop they’d founded in 1987.

Before they did, however, a 24-year-old UPS package handler and college student named Travis Grether walked into the shop at 3105 S. Winston Ave. and inquired about part-time work. Harley decided to hear the young man out.

“Within about 15 minutes, I found out he knew more than I did,” Harley says. “Mary and I were impressed by his knowledge of clocks, and we both knew we needed to give him a try.” So, the Hunters changed their minds about closing the longtime shop.

Giving Grether “a try” initially meant a few hours of work per week. But over the next few months the position grew to 20 hours, then full time with benefits. The job was such a good fit, Grether saw a career path and didn’t return to college.

Over the next six years, the clock shop not only survived; it thrived. Then, as if in return for its salvation, the shop granted Grether two gifts: first, business ownership and, then, love.

 

For everything, a season

Grether grew up watching his grandfather, a professional clock repairman in Porter, Oklahoma, work on hundreds of clocks, and eventually spent three years working for him part time. That day in 2011, Grether says he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next and decided to look for clock repair jobs “on a whim.”

“He wrote down the three clock shops in Tulsa and, for some reason, came to ours first,” Harley recalls. “The rest is history.”

Six months after Grether came to work at the shop, Harley brought up the topic of succession. “I said, ‘You’ll know when you’re ready (to take over the business),’” Harley recalls. Five years later, in January 2017, Grether went from employee to proprietor.

Though they eased into retirement, the Hunters didn’t say goodbye to the shop they’d operated for three decades.

Harley still makes four to five house calls each week on the shop’s behalf to work on grandfather and other large clocks that are difficult to transport. Mary volunteers a few hours each week in the office, helping with bookkeeping and fine-tuning the shop’s inventory and repair database, which she developed herself.

Harley and Mary Hunter founded Grandfather’s Clock Gallery and Clinic in 1987. The shop is known for its expert service and repair, along with selling a wide variety of time pieces and accessories.

Lightning strikes twice

Horology — literally “the study of time,” which refers to making and repairing clocks and watches — is in many ways a dying art, the Hunters say. A main reason? Technology.

Quartz, or battery, clocks have grown in popularity over the years, the Hunters say, because they are more convenient. They are always accurate, and you don’t have to wind them, Mary explains.

Looking back further, the use of pocket watches peaked in the early 1900s, according to various sources. Then came the wristwatch, which for many was replaced by cell phones in the 2000s. Now, of course, there are “smart watches,” including the Apple Watch.

The younger generations’ accessibility to such technology has resulted in relatively few millennials with skills or interest in horology, and few trade schools still offer courses in clock and watch repair. Oklahoma State University-Institute of Technology, for example, is phasing out its Watchmaking and Microtechnology program.

Surely Grether was an anomaly.

Yet one day, a fresh-faced, 20-something woman dropped into the shop to ask the Hunters if she could spend some time there simply to “watch people repair clocks.”

“We thought it was odd, yes, but we thought it was odd when Travis came in,” Harley recalls. Who were they to begrudge the young woman a learning opportunity?

A fan of the steampunk genre of science fiction, Talitha Moser was particularly fascinated with the history of clockmaking and automatons, which are self-operating mechanical devices.

After a few weeks watching Grether and others repair clocks, Moser was hired part time at the shop, helping customers, testing and regulating clocks that had been repaired, and sorting parts. She took a public clock repair course developed by Grether, and the two began to work closely together.

Eventually sparks were flying — and not just from the workbench.

“(Talitha) was gorgeous and everything,” says Grether, with a faint blush. “I got to know her and just thought she was way out of my league.”

He was wrong, as it turns out, and the two began dating, with the Hunters’ blessing. Their engagement on Aug. 21, 2017, was a rarer moment than most; it took place during the Great American Solar Eclipse.

Grether took Moser on a road trip to Jefferson City, Missouri, which was in the eclipse’s path of totality. “There is a point at totality that is called the ‘Diamond Ring Effect,’” Grether says. “That’s when I asked her.”

The two were married in December 2017 in a ceremony that incorporated sand in an hourglass and the exchange of pocket watches. The symbolism was fitting.

“We fell in love with clocks first, then we fell in love,” Talitha says.

Clock repair is “a rare occupation” — an artistry that cannot be learned quickly, he explains. Years of observation and training are required for even the most mechanically minded people to pick up on such a precise craft. (Good clock repair-people don’t even identify as such, Harley notes. They insist they are merely “tinkerers.”)

Clockwork continues

Still newlyweds, the Grethers happily operate Grandfather’s Clock Gallery and Clinic six days a week. They have seven employees, counting Harley, and they’re taking some steps to modernize its marketing and social media presence, Talitha says.

Clocks remain their second love, and it’s not just a mechanical appreciation. They feel an emotional connection to their customers and the history behind their work.

In the shop, which also buys and sells clocks, watches and antiques, Talitha points to a 19th-century French statue clock. “This clock has seen families grow up,” she says. “It saw electricity come to homes.”

And then there’s the feeling of “working on something that has already been worked on 10 times over the past 200 years,” she adds.

She recounts some customers’ reactions when they find out their family clock can be repaired. “We’ve had people break down crying because they thought their family clock would never chime again, and it was like their father’s voice to them every hour,” she says.

Although the Grethers’ customers are mostly Baby Boomers and older, they say the pendulum is starting to swing younger, especially with the rising popularity of some types of vintage furniture and collectibles.

“(Clocks and watches are) something people don’t think about because it’s not mainstream right now, but we think it’s coming back,” Talitha says.

Until the trends catch up, the Grethers will bide their time and continue to appreciate the life the little shop has provided them. “The clock shop was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Travis says.

And though the Hunters founded and built the business for 30 years, they don’t take credit for the rest of the story.

“You know how love is,” Harley says. “We didn’t have a thing to do with that.”

 

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Where:
Sweets & Cream
1114 S Yale Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74112
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Sponsor: Sweets & Cream
Telephone: 918-633-3182
Contact Name: Erik Collins
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5:00-6:00 Nature & Madness is the contemplative indie-folk project of Ryan Pickop. Ryan's work is rooted in Americana, rooted in the Earth. Challenging without being confrontational, we are offered...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heirloom Rustic Ales
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: Heirloom Rustic Ales

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Solo performance. Originally from the OKC area, Adrienne Gilley is a vocalist, guitar player, songwriter. Drawing from co-writers and influential mentors and supporters in the Tulsa music scene,...

Cost: Tipping encouraged

Where:
The Colony
2809 S. Harvard
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sample various whiskey, have dinner and hear some fabulous music! 

Cost: 150.00

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: Lindsey House
Telephone: 918-933-5222
Contact Name: Diana Denny
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JAKE OWEN Multiple chart-topping singer/songwriter Jake Owen’s new single “Down To The Honkytonk” is rapidly climbing the Billboard Country Airplay charts. With seven #1 songs to...

Cost: $50, $75, $100

Where:
Osage Casino
Tulsa, OK

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Sunday in the Park with George follows painter Georges Seurat in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Consumed...

Cost: $25.00 for adults, $22.50 for students & seniors with ID

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
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Join us for the 59th Annual Book Fair! Saturday, February 23, 2019 8:00 am–3:00 pm Holland Hall Primary School Gym Open to the public. Tickets $1, 18 and under free. No RSVP required,...

Cost: $1

Where:
Holland Hall Primary School
5666 E. 81 St.
Tulsa, OK  74137
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Sponsor: Holland Hall
Telephone: 918-481-1111
Contact Name: Heather Brasel
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The Orbit Initiative, produced by The Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Trust, resumes its FREE community satellite adventures at seven local community centers this Saturday, January 12th, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Various
Various
Tulsa, OK  Various
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Sponsor: The Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Trust
Telephone: 918-596-7119
Contact Name: Jeremy Stevens
Website »

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As Lakota artist Oscar Howe wrote in 1958, “There is much more to Indian art than pretty, stylized pictures.” This exhibition highlights this depth and the 20th century American masters who...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Do you and your pup have "cabin fever"? Come out to the Botanic Garden during our "Dog Days of Winter" - Fridays and Saturdays during January and February only when four-legged...

Cost: Free for Garden members & their dogs. Admission + $4 per dog for non-members.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson

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Men and women from across the American West played critical roles — both “over there” and on the home front — in helping the Allies win World War I. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF)...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Few animals conjure the power and symbolic presence of the North American bison. Whether painted on a tipi or an artist’s canvas, minted on a nickel, or seen grazing in Yellowstone National Park,...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Pain Management Class Non-medical Treatments for Pain Non-medical treatments may be used to treat chronic pain, along with pain medicines. They might also be used alone for mild pain or...

Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Where:
Glenpool Library
730 E. 141st Street
Glenpool, OK  74033
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Sponsor: Success Skills
Telephone: 405-401-3519
Contact Name: Ron Watkins

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34th Chelsea International Fine Art Competition—Opens on February 5th, 2019   Agora Gallery is pleased to invite artists from across the globe to enter the 34th Annual Chelsea...

Cost: $45 entry fee for up to 5 images ($5 for each additional image)

Where:
Agora Gallery
530 W 25th St.
New York, NY  10001
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Sponsor: Agora Gallery
Telephone: +1 212-226-4151
Contact Name: Carolina Carilo
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Winter's Grace Publishing, of northeast Oklahoma, is holding its inaugural Dead of Winter Flash Fiction Contest. It opened January 1 and it closes February 28. It's open to all creative writers...

Cost: $15 per story

Where:
, OK


Sponsor: Winter's Grace Publishing
Telephone: 918-852-6311
Contact Name: C.D. Smart
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Youth members of the six area Boys & Girls Clubs compete for college scholarships in the Annual Youth of the Year competition. The winners are announced at this banquet. Volunteers making a...

Cost: $75

Where:
ORU Global Learning Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Sponsor: The Salvation Army
Telephone: 918-587-7801
Contact Name: Samantha Knappen
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Cocktails, dinner and program with live and silent auctions followed by a Casino and dancing.

Cost: $200 per person, sponsorships available

Where:
The Mayo Hotel
115 W. 5th Street
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa CASA, Inc.
Telephone: 918-584-2272
Contact Name: Paula McKay
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Dancing, cocktails, Cajun and jazz...all of the goodies that Mardi Gras has!  Come join New Hope Oklahoma in a night of Mardi Gras fun!  New Hope Oklahoma strives to end generational...

Cost: TBD

Where:
The Bond
608 E 3rd St
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Dancing, cocktails, Cajun and jazz...all of the goodies that Mardi Gras has!  Come join New Hope Oklahoma in a night of Mardi Gras fun! New Hope Oklahoma strives to end generational incarceration,...

Cost: TBD

Where:
The Bond Event Center
608 E 3rd St
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cocktails, dinner and program;  silent and live auctions followed by a Casino and dancing.

Cost: $200 per person, sponsorships available

Where:
The Mayo Hotel
115 W. 5th Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa CASA, Inc.
Telephone: 918-584-2272
Contact Name: Paula McKay
Website »

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Support youth leaders emerging from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa. Each candidate is competing for higher education scholarships. Our goal is for youth leader to be a winner and advance with...

Cost: $50 Individual Tickets and Sponsor Levels

Where:
Global Learning Center at ORU
7777 S Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Sponsor: The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa
Telephone: 918-587-7801
Contact Name: Samantha Knappen
Website »

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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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6-10:30 p.m. Southern Hills Country Club, 2636 E. 61st Street. The 2019 Lunar New Year Gala at Southern Hills Country Club will be an elegant evening of candlelight, fine dining, children’s party...

Cost: $150, individual tickets; $1,000-$25,000, sponsorships.

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st Street
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Dillon International
Telephone: 918-748-5613
Contact Name: Marcia Graham
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COOKING UP COMPASSION FACT SHEET ABOUT THE EVENT:  Long time donors Margo and Kent Dunbar are Honorary Chairs for the event. Now in its fourteenth year, Cooking Up Compassion raises funds for the...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Ballroom at the Cox Business Center
3rd & Houston
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74135
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Sponsor: Catholic Charities
Telephone: 918-508-7115
Contact Name: Jennifer Allen
Website »

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Winterset is an annual formal event of the Osteopathic Founders Foundation which brings together the osteopathic profession and their community partners to benefit projects which improve the health...

Cost: $300

Where:
Hyatt Regency Tulsa
100 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Osteopathic Founders Foundation
Telephone: 918-551-7300
Contact Name: Michele Caine
Website »

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Sunday in the Park with George follows painter Georges Seurat in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Consumed...

Cost: $25.00 for adults, $22.50 for students & seniors with ID

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

More information

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TULtalk


Glacier serves up boozy chocolate bliss at its new bar

With Glacier Bean to Bar, the chocolate experts are now infusing cocoa know-how with cocktail flair.

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6 bold citrus recipes that taste like pure sunshine

We’ve gathered some of our favorite citrus-based recipes to beat the doldrums of winter.

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Lost Restaurants of Tulsa: Bishop’s Restaurant

One of Tulsa’s most famous historic restaurants, Bishop’s, opened in 1930.

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New downtown fROOT Bowls serves tasty concoctions

Fruit bowls or smoothie bowls are popular for a quick breakfast, lunch or post workout meal.

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3 must-have Tulsa brunches

Hungry for brunch? Try one of these to-die-for dishes.

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