FEATURE FRIDAY: Dreams turn into reality for downtown boutique owner

It took heartbreak in Carol Thibodeau’s life to push her to pursue her aspiration of opening her own clothing store.

Sitting at her grandmother’s funeral in February of 2014, Carol began thinking about the strong woman, who pursued her passions despite oppressive obstacles and never missed an opportunity to champion her granddaughter.

“She always encouraged me if I had a dream to go for it,” Carol said. “She always said to follow your dreams … Know that you’re strong. Go for what you want to go for; don’t fear stand in your way.”

Carol, now owner of Rhapsody Faith and Fashion at 108 S. Cherokee Ave. in downtown Claremore, had had a dream where she owned an online store, and despite little background in small business or retail, she jumped in head first.
“I opened a store in two weeks,” she said. “I had no idea about how to run an online store or about what to do, but I just did it … (My grandmother’s) influence on my life is what made me decide to take that step.”

Just two months later, things changed once again.

“Then one night I had another dream that I had my stuff in this hair salon,” she explained.

The next day at her hair appointment at Oasis Day Spa, Carol was explaining her story to the hairdresser when the spa’s owner walked in and announced she suddenly had space available. The whole spa stopped dead in its tracks.

“Three weeks later, I had a physical store,” Carol explained.

She moved to her current location in downtown Claremore in November of that same year.

“I wanted to be downtown because I love the Claremore downtown area,” she said. “When I looked at all the places I could be … this was the place I wanted to be.”

In addition to clothes Carol describes as boho chic, the store carries Christian T-shirts and accessories. Recently, the store added infant and toddler clothes.

Truly a family business, the store is adding on to include a spa feature, which is a passion of Carol’s daughter, Aimee. The spa will open in February of 2016 and will include massages and wraps, eventually adding facials and spray tans.

Carol said she loves her store because of the people she gets to meet and interact with daily.

“My favorite part has been my customers and getting to meet with people. I’ve had some of the most awesome conversations with people coming into my store. People just touch my heart,” she said. “I feel like I get to be a part of people’s lives. You get to know your customers, know their stories, and then you get to be a part of their stories.”

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FEATURE FRIDAY: Cycling brings adventure, investment to local bike store owners

Janice Whittaker caught the cycling bug in the mid-1990s. Five years later, her husband, Tracy, joined her in her obsession.

Another six years went by; the couple’s hobby also became their financial investment when they opened their own bike store in downtown Claremore.

Bike-About Bicycles, 300 W. Will Rogers Blvd., is a full service bicycle repair shop and retail store that repairs and supports all makes and models. It’s also a local center for riding gear, accessories and clothes or a bicycle upgrade.

It all started when Janice was approaching the big 4-0. Her sedentary life was catching up with her when she went to watch her active sister complete Ride the Rockies, a 450-mile, week-long ride through Colorado.

“I was expecting … all these jocks, and in came every size and shape person you can imagine, every age bracket,” Janice explained. “Then I totally lost my mind and told my sister I’d do Ride the Rockies with her the next year. I didn’t even have a bike at the time.”

She trained hard for the following year and was able to not only finish the ride, but also enjoy herself along the way. She began doing similar long rides when Tracy decided to join in the fun.

“I was off having all these adventures without him … so he joined me with cycling,” she said. “And so the adventures just continue.”

The passion gives both an opportunity to explore the world and get some exercise along the way. The couple has ridden in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, France, New York, Michigan, Arizona and Portland, Ore., to name a few.

“It’s the ultimate way to explore, not just the United States, but other countries, too. You see places you’d never see,” Janice said.

“It’s good exercise,” Tracy added. “That’s one of the other reasons for getting into it.”

In 1996, the Whittaker’s decided to use some investment money to buy a building in downtown Claremore and open their bike shop.

“And as they say, the rest is history,” Janice said.

It took a while to remodel the building to bring it back to a more original look, Tracy said.

“We did all of the remodel,” he said. “There were interior walls and a drop ceiling. There was basically a room inside of this room, and we pulled all that out.”

Now when shoppers walk in, they’re greeted with original tin ceilings and the rustic brick walls. The historic look complements the modern cycling equipment for the perfect combination of old and new.

The store opened in May of 2007 and quickly became a hub for cyclists in the area. Not only does Bike-About co-host the Dickens of a Ride each October with Claremore Main Street, the store also hosts a twice-a-week riding group.

Anyone is welcome to join the cycling group, which meets each Tuesday and Thursday evening during Daylight Savings time. All ride levels are encouraged to join the ride and comradery.

Janice and Tracy said they are excited to see one of their former rides, the Oklahoma Freewill, scheduled to come through town in June. The 460-mile ride will have an overnight stopping point in Claremore, bringing hundreds of riders through our town, on June 24.

Downtown offers classes, opportunities to learn

It’s the New Year, and with that comes New Year’s Resolutions, which often include learning a new skill or finishing that remodel that was started a while back.

While resolutions often come and go before the first month of the year is over, downtown Claremore offers the opportunity to get involved and cross some of those resolutions off your list.

Several businesses offer classes to help refurbish an old piece of furniture, improve your art skills or teach young ones how to bake.

Click “Read More” and scroll through some of the offered courses and see what might fit your goals for 2016.


“Bring Your Own Piece” Chalk Paint Class
Who: Adult, all ages
What: Students learn to paint and wax their own pieces of furniture during the two hours of hands-on instruction.
When: Monday evenings, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Vintique Charm, 323 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Why: To turn that old piece of furniture into a beautiful home creation
How Much: $125, but cost includes $90 worth of supplies (quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, can of wax, 2-inch flat brush)
Additional information: Students must sign up in advance due to class sizes. Call (918) 923-6222 or stop by to register!
Note: Vintique Charm also offers various DIY projects, including signs, orchard ladders and trays. Check their Facebook or visit their website for dates.

Kids Baking Class
Who: Children, ages 5+
What: Children will get the opportunity to bake from scratch and decorate two cookies or two cupcakes – one to eat on the spot and one to take home for later.
When: Saturdays, twice a month
Where: Caboose Bakery & Café, 522 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Why: To learn a necessary and fun skill at a young age
How Much: $20 a class with discounts for repeat attendees
Additional Information: Children must be registered before the class to ensure enough supplies are provided. To sign up, stop by or call (918) 923-6556.

Adult Art Classes
Who: Adults, all ages
What: Mixed media painting on gallery wrapped canvas
When: Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Where: Studio B Artworks, 422 W. 4th St.
Why: To cultivate a new skill or improve your painting abilities.
How Much: $100 for six weekly 90-minute classes. All supplies are included.
Additional Information: To register, stop by from 1-6 p.m. Monday through Friday or call (918) 443-7278.
Note: Join Friday Night Painting on January 29 from 6:30-9 p.m. for Alabaster & Jade, a floral still-life created with palette knives. Regular Friday Night Painting classes are offered. Follow Studio B on Facebook for more details.

Children’s Art Class
Who: Classes offered for preschool (Mommy and Me), K-8th and homeschool
What: Various art classes tailored specifically for the age group, six weekly classes
When: Classes vary in time and day of the week depending on age
Where: Studio B Artworks, 422 W. 4th St.
Why: To give children that extra attention and boost of confidence when it comes to art
How Much: $65-75, depending on age
Additional Information: Follow Studio B on Facebook or call (918) 443-7278 for more details or to register a student.
Note: Studio B does birthday parties! Parties start at $150 for 10 painters. Private lessons are also offered for all ages.

Plaster Paint 101
Who: Adults, all ages
What: This course teaches the basics and fundamentals of using Plaster Paint and its products, including layering, distressing and using magic seal.
When: Feb. 9, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Willow Tree Mall, 409 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Why: Enjoy a fun night out while learning some new techniques to revitalize old furniture
How Much: $25, all supplies included
Additional Information: Stop by or call (918) 404-9905 to reserve your space today. Also, join the Facebook event for details.

Cozy Cottage

FEATURE FRIDAY: Cozy Cottage offers the usual as well as the unique

Kathy Glover walked into her new store in Tulsa on its opening day, full of the excitement and anxiety that goes along with starting a new business.

But the first day didn’t quite go as she had planned.

“I’ll never forget,” Kathy said. “I came downstairs, turned the TV on and there’s all this going on.”

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

While the whole country sat glued to the television, Kathy waited for her customers. It was one of the slowest days in her 14-year run as a store owner.

Fortunately, business picked up as life began to get back to normal after 9/11. Kathy, owner of Cozy Cottage at 514 W. Will Rogers Blvd., maintained her successful business in Tulsa until two years ago, when she moved the operations to downtown Claremore.

“And I love it. I wish I’d done it years ago,” she said. “I was nervous about moving the store because I had been in Tulsa 12 years, so when I moved here, it was like starting all over again … But it felt comfortable; it felt like a good move.”
​Kathy, who had moved her home to Claremore a year previous to the store’s move, jumped right into life in Claremore. She serves on the Committee for the Festival of Trees for Safenet and on the Decorations Committee for Rogers State University Foundation Auction, decorates the Belvidere Mansion each Christmas, is the President of the Downtown Merchant Group and serves on the Claremore Main Street, Inc., Board of Directors.

“I’m really excited about the direction that Main Street is going. I think a lot of good things are going to happen and are happening,” she said. “I just love the charm of downtown, the old buildings.”

The Cozy Cottage is an antique-style store that focuses on home décor pieces.

“It’s old and new,” Kathy said. “We try to find the usual and the unique. It’s kind of an eclectic mix.”

Kathy doesn’t have any vendors and finds all her pieces herself, which is something she said she enjoys in her business.

“I want to take a lot of them home,” she joked. “It’s a fun thing to do. The thrill of the hunt is fun, and then finding different and unique things.”

In addition to hunting for the top items to bring back to Claremore, Kathy likes the freedom her own store provides and the comradery she gets with her fellow merchants as well as her customers.

“I like being able to talk to people, to enjoy people. That’s one of the best things,” she said. “The friendship you acquire through the store.”

Sailor Antiques & Collectibles

FEATURE FRIDAY: From corporate to collectibles, one store owner pursues her passion

Brenda Reno had been into antiques, auctions, collectibles and decorating since she was young, something instilled in her by her father, who was her partner in crime at auctions and farm sales.

Nearing retirement from her corporate job, she found herself in a position to pursue a lifelong dream, and she jumped at it.

Brenda, owner of Sailor Antiques and Collectibles at 420 W. Will Rogers Blvd., was a dealer in the store previously at the location, Emerald Antiques.

“When life changes for the owner occurred, I was offered to purchase the business, which I was thrilled to do,” Brenda said.
​“My family was my support system. I was going to be leaving a corporate world as human resource manager and taking on this lifelong dream that I had to own my own antique store.”

Family also played a big part in naming the store. Brenda and her sisters had been hoping one of her kids or one of her nieces and nephews would name a daughter Sailor, but it never happened.

“When we started this business, we felt like it was our new baby, something we’d never done, a new adventure, so we started calling her Sailor,” Brenda said.

Brenda took over the store in February of 2013 and continued to work full-time in her corporate job for a year, pulling double duty and going seven days a week to manage both roles.

“It was a lot of work, but in the same instance, it was a lot of fun,” she said.

Brenda said two of her favorite things about her business are her customers and dealers, all of whom she considers friends. The other is hearing the stories from visitors who shopped at Wilson’s Hardware, the store that occupied the space for more than 80 years.

“It’s fun to be in such a historic building for Claremore natives,” she said. “They’ll come in, and they’ll just walk through and reminisce and tell you stories. It’s like they’re coming home when they come in.”

Brenda serves on the Claremore Main Street, Inc., Board of Directors because she said she wants to ensure the very best for downtown Claremore.

“I’m very passionate about things succeeding. I want to do really well, and I want everyone else to do really well, and I want it to be a destination to go to when people come to town.”

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