Keep It Local Blog
Stories, interviews, and local insights that we hope will inspire you to support the local shops, restaurants, and services that make Oklahoma unique.
During the time that I was running Collected Thread, I heard customers and friends lamenting on the difficulty of shopping local. And to be honest, a lot of their complaints were mine as well. It is frustrating to get out of the car, get your kids unloaded and grab your bags to realize that the shop owner ran out of lunch or is home with a sick kid. We are so use to it just being a grocery store or a restaurant or a bookstore that we forget that people, sometimes just one person, is running that business. So we get back in the car and try not to be too frustrated and remember that this is a person with needs too. But it is hard. This just railroaded our day and now the kids are losing their minds because the bakery was closed and they wanted a treat or whatever. I think remembering that humanity exists behind this business is good but the frustration is valid as well. The flip side to that is that it sure is a special feeling to walk into a restaurant or shop and know the owner. I love going into Chirps and Cheers and seeing Sami and Susan Kropp. They are two of the kindest people in OKC. Like, they are so kind that it is hard to be in a bad mood when you are around them. I love knowing that when I purchase something, I am supporting them and their darling shop. To me, that is worth the frustration.
Another complaint I would hear would be how hard it is to find certain items locally. During the big Shop Local movement in Oklahoma a few years back, the message of “Shop Local” somehow got distorted to buy absolutely everything local and if you don’t, you should feel really, really bad about it. I know that is how I felt every time I bought a $5 kids shirt from Target. I would run through the store hoping that I didn’t see anyone that I knew. I don’t think that shopping local means you need to strictly buy local nor should you feel shame when you don’t. I think it is just being conscious of when you can. And sometimes going a little out of your way to do so. Here is a simple example: I needed to buy Easter eggs and candy for both of my sons’ Easter egg hunts at school. I was going to grab them at (gasp) Walmart when a thought occurred to me. “I bet Homeland has Easter eggs and candy and they are a local grocery store!” And they did! Yippee! I don’t think buying local has to be a huge lifestyle change. I think it can be a simple thought process change. Stop and think, is this something that I can buy local or not. Do I have time to make one more stop? Can I get everything I need at Ely’s grocery store or do I need to go to Sprouts? Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t...or you can, but it is going to add too much stress to your day. That is OKAY!!!!! I do think that a simple pause to reflect on what your options are is all the lifestyle change you need to do.
I know my pal, Kristen Vails Gilpin, will be covering this topic a lot more extensively in this blog. She is a wise lady and you should read everything she writes. I just wanted to throw my two cents in there!
On one hand, the effort to #keepitlocaler in the food category is easy. I don’t think I need to convince a majority of people that local restaurants offer better food and more desirable dining experiences. The Oklahoma City restaurant scene is thriving and my April budget backs that up. April was rich with local food and drink:
However, there are a few areas in the food category where sometimes it’s easy to miss an opportunity. We’re not big on eating fast food, but sometimes that’s just what happens. We stick with Sonic and Braum’s as a local option for fast food. There are enough locations spread across the city to keep it convenient, and I honestly prefer the menu over any other fast food chains. I also really appreciate Sonic’s progressive leadership and community investment as a company and Braum’s market offerings for when you just need a few staples.
Our household has affinity for cheap beer (don’t worry, we love local beer too). It’d be easy to grab a six pack from any gas station or grocery store, but we prefer to pick it up from the corner store in our neighborhood, the S&S. My husband loves to walk down the block to visit with the store owner, Prince, and I love to have a place to grab a Kit Kat when I’m craving something sweet.
Right now, most liquor stores are local, but soon we’ll be able to purchase those items from the grocery store. I want to continue to support my favorite liquor store, Modern Liquor, because they are a familiar face and always give us great recommendations. They’ve even brought in labels we’ve requested. I don’t expect to get that kind of service from a grocery store.
On the other hand, groceries are the hardest part of my effort to #keepitlocaler. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love Aldi. Last summer, I tried to make the switch to a local grocery store but I just couldn’t make it work. Aldi is just a really great fit for us when it comes to budget and quality. However, we have been able to shift some of our grocery budget locally. For the past few months, we’ve been picking up local eggs from Upward Harvest. They’ve recently created a program which delivers local meat and produce to your door. In April, we enjoyed local bison, tilapia, greens, eggs, and herbs. We also pick up a few odds and ends from Crest when we can’t find what we need at Aldi. Braum’s Fresh Market is also a regular stop for odds and ends between grocery shopping.
At the end of the month, 67% of our food and drink budget was spent locally. I feel good about this, but I’d love to be able to expand our local shopping to include more locally grown, raised and made options in the future. Remember you can also #keepitlocaler by purchasing locally made food and drink. A few of our favorites include Anthem beer, Big Oak Kombucha, Towhead salsa, and various local honey jars and locally roasted coffee.
Food & Drink Notes
What does shopping more local mean for a millenial(ish) couple who are striving to have a more minimal lifestyle when it comes to material things?
Supporting local food and drink is a great way to value experiences and togetherness over “stuff.”
What is the feasibility of a commitment to shop local for those that do not have much flexibility or resources? For the single mom, the family living paycheck to paycheck, the person without access to reliable transportation?
The reality is, for our city’s most vulnerable, access to quality food is rarely a choice. Supporting local grocers such as Crest, Buy 4 Less and Supermercado Morelos is a great way to support local businesses that provide options and access to groceries for so many in our community.
You love Oklahoma and support all things local like the independent shops, restaurants, and services that make our state such a great place to live and visit, but why stop there? Display your Okie pride for all to see with this free wallpaper for your phone and desktop designed by artist, Mauricio Cremer. Download by clicking on the links below!
About the Artist: Born and raised in Costa Rica, Mauricio's creative leanings began at an early age surrounded by an artistic family. From architects to painters, he grew up in an environment of constant inspiration. Now, with over 15 years as a designer & maker, Mauricio has produced multiple award-winning identity and print projects.
If you've been keeping up with our Instagram, you've likely seen one of the district takeovers in our stories. For the past four months, I’ve been lucky enough to travel from district to district around the state with my camera and call it "work." I’ll admit, having lived in Oklahoma my entire life, I went into these takeovers thinking I already knew of every spot worth visiting. I couldn't have been more happy to be wrong. These takeovers have only increased my love for this state and all of the hidden gems it has to offer. (Idea: Maybe we stop referring to these places as “hidden gems” and call them “gems that are very easily found if you put in the effort of looking past the chain stores.” Flows off the tongue, right?)
The takeover that really caused my brain to shift from “There’s nothing new here” to “wait, Oklahoma has one of these!?” was the Tulsa takeover. The week I spent in Tulsa back in February was full of trying new places and meeting the people behind the counters, storefronts, and Instagram pages. Here are five new-to-me places that I loved getting to see.
01. Blue Moon Café– To the best of my knowledge, I’d never had French toast in my life (I know). Thankfully, Blue Moon Café was there to fix that. They make their bread from scratch so you KNOW it was good. They’re also a full-blown bakery so you can take goods home and try your hand at making French toast yourself, if you’re ambitious.
02. Jenkins & Co. –
This is one of those shops I would go to if I just moved into a super cute house and needed the inside to look like one of my Pinterest boards. I’m not kidding, I wish I could’ve taken home every chair and trinket I saw in there. What’s good about local home and gift stores is everything is so much more personal. Whether it’s something for yourself or a friend, it already has more of a story than just some pillow from Target. That, and you get to talk about a cool, local business to someone else!
03. Made – I felt the same way about Made that I did about Jenkins & Co., but Made is a little bit more gift-centered rather than home-centered. That being said, I still left with some awesome little succulent planters that are now one of my favorite things in my apartment. They’ve got everything from vintage jewelry, to bath goods, to t-shirts. Made is one of those stores you go in to be surprised and walk out with something you didn’t know you needed.
04. Topeca (Philcade) – The newest Topeca location is in the Philcade building downtown. The Philcade building is an Art Deco lover’s dream. I got to see the new location while it was being built and just went back last week to see how it turned out. Topeca totally honored the style of the building. Between the black and white tile, gold bar stools, and a window that looks out onto the most gorgeous lobby, it’s easy to be transported back in time. Oh yeah, and they have good coffee too (but everyone in OK already knew that!).
05. STEMcell Science Shop – Oh how I wish this was around when I was a kid. STEMcell Science Shop is a little white shipping crate in The Boxyard filled with gadgets and curiosities that can even make adults geek-out (anyone in need of a dinosaur skull for their mantel?). It’s such a cool, niche shop that I hope encourages other unique stores to pop up as well!
Tulsa has always been a favorite of mine for a day trip, and these local businesses have made my more recent trips even more fun. They’ve also helped me realize that how you spend your money can actually shape a city. If the STEMcell’s and Made’s of a city are supported by how people choose to spend their money, we’ll only continue to see awesome small businesses grow (which can lead to a city’s economic growth, walkability, I could go on!). So go take a trip to Tulsa for yourself and see what other cool businesses exist out there that you wouldn’t have known of otherwise.
Hi! Lindsay Zodrow here! For the past 9 ½ years, I have gotten to have the most incredible job, owning and operating a little handmade shop in the Plaza District. During that time, I watched OKC change from a place that people seemed to mutter out of embarrassment when asked where they were from to this incredible city that make us so proud. I also got to be heavily involved in the Plaza District and walking along as it became this incredible place for artists, musicians, writers, poets, and those that just need a place. I closed my shop in February of this year. I walk away from it very full with the incredible gift it was to run the shop and a deep sadness at a community that I am no longer directly a part of. Now I am just trying to figure out what the heck I am doing.
I was driving after dropping off my son at school after a long two week Spring Break, and I was suddenly struck with how normal this has become; how strangely normal it is to not drive to my store. Collected Thread was a handmade boutique that carried well-made jewelry, clothing, accessories, housewares, and baby goods. For the past 10 years, I have lived and breathed Collected Thread. My husband and I lived in the back of the shop for the first two years that the shop was open. Don’t worry, it was legal! The shop is zoned commercial/residential so there is a kitchen and bathroom in the space. I raised both of my kids in the shop (there was a crib in the bathroom!). For the first 4 years, I worked at the shop during the day and worked at night at Cuppies and Joe, because I wasn’t paying myself yet. FOUR YEARS!! Cuppies was the greatest second job one could have, but 4 years is a long time to go after a passion project without getting paid. I worked open-to-close every day until my oldest son was born. On trips with my husband, we would spend a good amount of time checking out the local stores across the country, to see what they were doing right. My friends were local business owners. It was all we talked about. In my free time, I served on the Plaza District board and worked really hard with a bunch of other people to try and make the district the incredible place that it is. I say all of this not to impress you, but to emphasize what I said earlier, that I lived and breathed this shop.
So it is so weird to be on the other side of owning a shop. On one hand, it is really wonderful to not have to be there everyday from open to close, whether or not life has other demands or with sick kids in tow. And it is freeing to suddenly have all of this space in my head to be creative outside of the shop. Granted, I do have two little kids so there isn’t toooooo much free space in my head, but you get the idea.
This newfound freedom is great, but it comes with an incredible cost. Beyond the fact that I freaking loved my job, and loved getting to do to it everyday, I lost a huge part of my community when I closed. It was my Third Place. It was where out of town friends knew they could find me. It was where I got to see the other Plaza business owners on a regular basis. It was where I got to meet other moms and lament about the struggles of motherhood. And it is where I was incredibly privileged to have people share their lives with me. I got to hear about bad days, months, and years. I got to celebrate new babies, new jobs, and new adventures. So many people come to a store for other reasons than to shop. They come to be seen and be known, they come to try to get past a hard day, to get out of the house, to be inspired or simply for something to do. And I got to be that place for them. You cannot imagine what a special thing that was for me. THAT WAS MY JOB!
I like to think that our little shop was the type of place my husband and I would have visited if we were out-of-towners, seeking inspiration.
I say all of this for two reasons: One, so you kind of know who the heck is writing this blog. And Two, to remind you that there are people behind these local businesses. People who are passionate about what they do and who are giving it everything they’ve got. These people deserve and need our support. Without these gems, our city loses what is special. So choose the local pizza place instead of the chain, or go get your printer ink from the local toner refill place, or whatever! No one is asking you to never enter a chain again. Just try to incorporate local into your routine. Yes, sometimes it is a challenge and sometimes they won’t have what you are looking for, but I bet they would bend over backwards to get it for you if they can. And they are worth it. They are working so hard to make out city great and they deserve our support.