I’ve seen a lot of fits and starts when it comes to Bricktown retail. Let’s review a bit….
Way, way back when, there was a small flower shop started up as part of a failed attempt by Neal Horton to turn a decaying district of old brick warehouses into something special. It didn’t last long, but in the early 1990s we saw the opening of the Bricktown Mercantile. And it lasted for several years – but as Jim Brewer would say, it was too much, too soon, and too ahead of its time.
The opening of the Bricktown Canal in 1999 ushered in another wave of retail – names like the Laughing Fish, an art gallery, a Mexican gift store … all of them failed to take root. I’m not sure if they were entirely bad concepts, but they were all spread out – there was no cluster of retail to draw the increasing crowds being drawn by the canal.
City leaders thought they could kick off retail by priming the pump – chipping in $19 million to help build a Bass Pro Shops and jump start the Lower Bricktown project.
Some retail did follow – clothing stores like LIT and Firefly. Both were trendy clothing shops. But was this the retail concept to match what people visiting Bricktown were looking for? Bass Pro is doing fine. But LIT and Firefly both closed this past year. Maybe they would have fared better if they had been situated next to each other. Instead, developer Randy Hogan had them on opposite ends of the canal as it meanders south of Reno. The LIT space is being replaced by a restaurant. Don’t be surprised if a restaurant takes the Firefly space as well.
So now we move onto the current wave, which I’d argue is kicked off by Chad Huntington and Bob Bekoff with the opening of the Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium in 2007. Not too much earlier we see The Painted Door opening around the block facing Sheridan.
Oddly, just as the Emporium opened, the only retail tenant on the canal level, a Native American gift shop, relocated to Stockyards City. That is now the only space empty on the canal level of the Miller Jackson Building, with the remaining space attracting an art shop, a winery, a convenience store and now the Bricktown Red Dirt Marketplace – all together, all offering a mix that might just be the right draw for visitors.
Below I’ll show the free standing stores, followed by a glimpse of the retail now open in the marketplace – are we about to finally see a critical mass on retail along the canal?