TULSA – The road was long, hot and rough with plenty of dead ends. But the owners of the Myers-Duren Harley-Davidson Dealership in Tulsa never released the throttle. This October, they’re celebrating 100 years of doing business in Tulsa and a century of riding Harleys on the open road.
“I think it proves there are loyal customers here in Tulsa. They’re loyal to Harley-Davidson and loyal to Myers-Duren and we look forward to serving them for many more years to come,” Johnny McClanahan, the owner’s son and General Manager says.
The family-owned business will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with a series of events beginning October 14th with a media and local celebrity event, a community party on October 18th and culminating with their annual fall bike show on October 25th.
In 1912, Ward and Virgil Eby opened a bicycle and Excelsior motorcycle shop in Tulsa. The dealership was then kick-started with the addition of the Harley-Davidson line in 1914. The Eby brothers sold it in 1949 to Glen E. “Dutch” Myers. Then in 1977, in a rare event, a woman bought the dealership.
Reba McClanahan, a former high school teacher and bike rider, bought the store with her then-husband, Lowell Duren. After they divorced, Reba kept the business, remarried and her sons Johnny and James McClanahan helped her run it. Today, the dealership is located inside an award-winning art deco building in the historic Brookside district. It is the oldest Harley-Davidson dealership in the state.
The family expects they’ll be around another 100 years. “I never dreamed Harley-Davidsons would be this popular. The demand is just continuing,” says Johnny McClanahan, “Having a Harley is a lifestyle. It’s something you want to be a part of and there are people from all walks of life who want to ride. The Harley brings them together.”
The road to success wasn’t easy. The owners suffered through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War I and II and the oil boom and bust.
“It’s been an interesting ride literally and figuratively,” says Reba.
She and her sons survived with discipline and dedication to customer service. More than half of their customers are repeat business.
“We want your business, your kids’ business and your grandkids’ business. We’ve seen a lot of generations of families riding over the years,” says Johnny, “We want our customers for the next 100 years. We want our customers for life.”
About owner Reba McClanahan
By all accounts, Reba McClanahan is one tough son-of-a-gun, even at the age of 74. When she was a teacher, she created a stir by wearing her biking boots over pantyhose. She became one of a handful of women in the country to own a motorcycle dealership. When other businesses failed during the oil bust, she survived.
It’s how she was raised. Reba’s mother had her only child when she was 47-years-old. Reba quickly learned the value of independence and to rely on herself to get things done.
After teaching in Oklahoma and other states, Reba and her husband, Lowell Duren, moved to Maryland. Reba became a high school business teacher and chairwoman of the business department while Lowell worked as a college professor.
In the mid-1970’s, the couple started riding motorcycles during the energy crisis to save money on gas. They loved bikes so much that they bought four of them. Reba’s husband learned to be a mechanic, and before long, he was fixing a variety of motorcycles in their basement. They decided then they wanted to own a dealership to “treat people the way they want to be treated.”
With a growing passion for motorcycles, the Duren’s packed up and moved back home to Oklahoma. “People thought we were nuts for giving up our secure jobs in the education field,” says Reba. With her inheritance, the Duren’s bought the Harley-Davidson dealership from the estate of Dutch Myers.
In 1979, Reba found herself running the Harley-Davidson dealership alone. She was divorced and on her own. She leaned on her parts manager, Howard Swofford, for advice. He urged her to save money for the bad times. She took his words to heart. When customers stopped walking through the doors in mid 80s, they were able to squeak by selling one Harley at a time.
Reba’s luck changed when the economy turned around and she met her next husband, Don McClanahan, at a church singles group. A late mother like her mom, Reba had baby James when she was 42. She also now had a stepson, Johnny, who joined the dealership in 1982. James “grew up” at the dealership and when he graduated from high school in 2000 he joined the team and the family still runs the dealership together today.
In 1998, Reba moved the dealership from 8th and Utica into a 20,000 square foot custom-built art deco showroom at 48th and Peoria in the historic Brookside District.
Her focus is the same today as it was in 1977- solid customer service and a family atmosphere. The store also encourages women to own and ride Harleys. They offer Harley-Davidson accessories, clothing, maintenance and riding lessons. The family thanks Tulsa by giving back to the community with multiple fundraising rides and events that benefit local charities.