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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October 2019

The annual US National Arabian & Half Arabian Horse Show returns to Tulsa. You will be able to see over 1700 Arabian and Half Arabian horses competing in many divisions, including Breeding/In Hand...

Cost: 0.00

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Asbury United Methodist Church
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

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Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
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Telephone: 580-317-8470
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More information

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Sponsor: Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice
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Cost: $15

Where:
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View map »


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Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
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More information

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Cost: $1,250

Where:
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2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
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Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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View map »


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Website »

More information

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Cost: 0.00

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View map »


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Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
Website »

More information

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Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

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View map »


Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

More information

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Website »

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Contact Name: Karen Gilbert
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Cost: $1,250

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View map »


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Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

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Cost: $15

Where:
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1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
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Contact Name: Dan
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Tulsa Dance Company
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Website »

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Cost: Varies

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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Aquarium
Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
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No tricks, just treats! Gathering Place is casting a spell for all not-so-scary ghosts and ghouls to make their way to the park for sweets and treats. Meet us on Spooky Street for a kid-friendly,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Seymour, a nerdy worker at a run-down florist is romantically pining for a seemingly unattainable beauty named Audrey, when he discovers an unusual plant that only thrives when it is fed human...

Cost: $15-$25

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 East Second Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa Project Theatre
Telephone: 918-596-7122
Contact Name: Amber Whitlatch
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The annual US National Arabian & Half Arabian Horse Show returns to Tulsa. You will be able to see over 1700 Arabian and Half Arabian horses competing in many divisions, including Breeding/In Hand...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Tulsa State Fairgrounds
4145 E 21st St,
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
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The Tulsa Walk to Defeat ALS is the signature fundraising event for The ALS Association Oklahoma. The Walk to Defeat ALS is the #1 way to unite and fundraise for those living with ALS. Each...

Cost: Free

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 East M.B. Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 202-464-8617

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Together OSU Medicine and OSU Medical Center have built a fully comprehensive health care team to serve families in Tulsa and the surrounding areas. One of those levels of expertise is...

Cost: Free

Where:
OSU Medical Center North Lobby
744 W. Ninth St.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: OSU Medicine

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 Harvest Hayday!  October 26, from 11am - 2pm.  Come celebrate the arrival of fall!  With hayrides, games, trunk or treating, emergency vehicles, a petting zoo, and more, ...

Cost: Free, except food items for purchase from Food Trucks

Where:
Asbury UMC
6767 S. Mingo Rd
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Sponsor: Asbury UMC
Telephone: 918-392-1165
Contact Name: Kim Broadhurst
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Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
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Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
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Outdoor All Day Family Friendly Halloween Event 

Cost: $0-$10.00

Where:
Downtown Wagoner
Main Street
Wagoner
Wagoner, OK  74467
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Sponsor: Wagoner Main Street
Telephone: 918-577-1772
Contact Name: Samantha Call
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Buy a Care Card and save up to 20% at more than 200 local stores and restaurants October 25 – November 3, 2018. With Care Card, you’re saving more than money – you’re saving lives....

Cost: $60

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: Family & Children's Services
Telephone: 918-560-1115
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Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
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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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Mummies of all ages! Bring your goblins, witches, and super heroes to our fun and food filled Halloween Dance! Saturday, October 26th, 2019 6-9 pm $5 per person (check or cash)  

Cost: $5 per person

Where:
Bixby Community Center
211 N Cabaniss Ave
Bixby , OK  74008
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Sponsor: Bixby Community Center
Telephone: 918-366-4841
Contact Name: Victoria Smith

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For the first time, the Oklahoma Aquarium will host seven nights of indoor trick-or-treating for kids of all ages from Friday, October 25 to Thursday, October 31! Guests can follow the...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Drive
Jenks, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Aquarium
Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

Tulsa Metro Sound Chorus presents: "As Seen on TMS". A comedic review which will keep you in stitches, including music of Iconic Women of Song . Come enjoy the music of Karen Carpenter,...

Cost: 15.00

Where:
Memorial High School
5840 S Hudson Ave,
Tulsa, OK  74135
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Sponsor: Tulsa Metro Sound
Telephone: 918-352-6091
Contact Name: Marlys Fallen
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Choral Music from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Down Under

Cost: $20

Where:
Cascia Hall
2520 S Yorktown Ave
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Tulsa Chorale
Telephone: 918-625-1527
Contact Name: Anastasia Howard
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Are you looking for a night of Halloween hilarity, ghoulish guffaws, and spooky silliness? Then come and see the spirited stylings of Laughing Matter… Oklahoma’s longest-running...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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Luchadores go head to head in the ring to see who really is The Great Pumpkin!

Cost: Free

Where:
Elote Cafe & Catering
514 S Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Elote Cafe & Catering
Telephone: 918-582-1403
Contact Name: Elote Cafe & Catering
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Seymour, a nerdy worker at a run-down florist is romantically pining for a seemingly unattainable beauty named Audrey, when he discovers an unusual plant that only thrives when it is fed human...

Cost: $15-$25

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 East Second Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Project Theatre
Telephone: 918-596-7122
Contact Name: Amber Whitlatch
Website »

More information

No tricks, just treats! Gathering Place is casting a spell for all not-so-scary ghosts and ghouls to make their way to the park for sweets and treats. Meet us on Spooky Street for a kid-friendly,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Website »

More information

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What's New


The Healing Series marks a new artistic chapter

One year after Black Wall Street Gallery opened in its historic storefront, it will launch the new exhibit at a new location just down the street: 10 N. Greenwood Ave.

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From ornate building to boring parking garage

The Medical and Dental Arts building opened in January 1928 at Sixth and Boulder. It was demolished in 1970.

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These 2 developers have transformed downtown Tulsa

Ross Group and Brickhugger have both re-energized legacy buildings and spurred other commercial opportunities.

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Books and baseball

The poet Marianne Moore said, “Writing is exciting, and baseball is like writing.”

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