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.
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.
Last summer, my husband seriously began to consider closing his retail store. While we were having conversations about what to do, I began thinking more about our own habits as consumers. We thought of ourselves as local supporters, but did our actions really reflect that?
We had been keeping a serious budget so I tracked our spending really close, and in looking where we were spending I saw some room for improvement. So, last summer I set out to #keepitlocaler. I didn’t set any specific goal other than to try and shop local as much as possible. I researched new places to shop, asked for recommendations, tried out different stores, ran into snags and made some delightful discoveries. Overall, what I learned most was that shopping local requires intention and planning. This isn’t unlike any lifestyle that pushes against the mainstream culture. To eat healthier takes intention and planning, to get out of debt takes intention and planning, to make green choices takes intention and planning, and so on.
I want to shop local. I want to live healthier. I want to create less impact on the environment. I want to use my time for meaningful experiences and investing in others, but in the hustle of day to day life how can there be room for planning and intentionality in all of those areas?
Further, how can I afford to do it all? It feels like lifestyle choices like these come at a price, but with the limited funds in my bank account how can there be room to afford all it all?
My husband ultimately decided to close the doors of his brick and mortar shop in February of this year after 11 years in business.
When approached about writing for this blog, this is where I was. The shop had just closed and there was this longing to just fall into the stream of easy. We were tired. Then, I read the economic study and the impact that shifting 10% can have for local businesses and economy. Perhaps this is the answer? We can’t have it all, but maybe that shift in shopping local, and applying that shift to other areas of my life...maybe that is the balance? Maybe that is the compromise?
I think most people know why it’s important to shop local. It’s the how that trips us up when time and money is tight. Over the next few months, I’ll be documenting my aim to make this shift as I go through categories in our budget:
- ...and more
Sprinkled in this shift, I’ll be exploring some thoughts, questions and ideas.
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?
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?
I hope you’ll keep up and offer any recommendations, tips, tricks and questions along the way. Hopefully this time next year, twelve months of intention and planning will have resulted in a natural discipline with all the benefits of shopping more locally.