OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Looking for history in outfits for cowboys, Brian Barber starts at one end of Langston’s Western Wear.
“How big is the store?” asks a visitor. “About 30,000 square feet,” he says.
Longtime Langston’s employee Bob Boatmun starts at the other.
“This was the original shoe department,” he points out.
Walking a few feet further he says, “This was the original store.”
A few steps toward the outside wall he stops and says, “This was Norma’s Lounge.”
It was Brian Barber’s great uncle Lee Langston that opened a dry goods store in Harrah in 1913.
He moved it to downtown Oklahoma City a few years later selling seed and clothing to local farmers, calling it ‘Oklahoma’s Friendliest Store”.
Boatmun says, “That’s what we’re all about is family.”
Langston bought out Freeman in the 1930′s, then brought his two nephews in to help run the business.
Barber’s grandfather Bob entertained thoughts of going back to Detroit, Michigan but stayed.
Brian himself had thoughts of staying in sunny California where he went to school.
But he’s glad he came home.
“It’s been neat to see it evolve even in my lifetime,” he says.
Bob Boatmun took the Interurban trolley line from Moore to Oklahoma City to apply for a job in the shoe department.
The year was 1952.
Ownership sent him to the new Stockyards store where he’s been ever since.
“It’s a bit bigger now than it was then,” remarks a visitor.
“Yeah,” chuckles Boatmun. “a little bit.”
“So many people, different kinds of people,” he recalls.
“We just enjoyed all of them.”
Bob almost quit on his first day when a knife fight broke between two cowboys outside the store.
Nobody got hurt and Boatmun decided to stay.
“I’m still here and the community is still great,” says Boatmun.
Langston’s slowly expanded, absorbing an adjacent dance hall, a beer joint, and another western wear store.
They occupy the whole building now.
Brian Barber says, “I think a key component of our longevity is that we’re part of the community and we have been since day one. So we’ve been able to listen to our customers, what they want, what their needs are, and change when they change.”
After a hundred years, Lee Langston’s descendants are still here with open ears, and open doors too.
To learn more about Langston’s and their first century visit their website http://www.langstons.com