NEW BUSINESS: Bridal, prom boutique joins the Main Street family

With prom and bridal season right around the corner, ladies in the area can rejoice in the fact that they can shop local for that perfect dress to complement their special night.

Red Hot Designs, 103 N. Cherokee Ave., is now open in downtown Claremore and owner Brenda Bryant said making sure her customers leave with their ideal gown is the key.

“I like to pick up the lines that not everybody carries because when these girls are on the hunt for a prom dress, the most important thing is helping them find the dress that they love and nobody else is going to have,” she said.

The store has a dress registry, so if a girl purchases a prom dress and registers it, Brenda will not sell that same dress to anyone else going to the same prom.

​“I love the thrill of helping them find the dress,” she said. “When they come out of the dressing room … I’m watching the facial expression because those eyes and the corner of the mouth tell everything.”

Brenda doesn’t work on commission and is not going to sell a dress just to make a quick buck. It’s about finding the right dress.
“We try to make it fun,” she said. “I’m not going to push somebody to purchase a dress that they aren’t loving.”

In addition to prom dresses, the store carries wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl and ring barrier attire and jewelry as well has tuxedo rental – it’s truly a one-stop shop.

Red Hot Designs does not require an appointment during regular store hours but will open after hours by appointment only.

When she was younger, Brenda said she enjoyed sketching dresses and even designed and sewed her own wedding gown. A few years later, she made the bridesmaid dresses for her brother’s wedding.

She started selling clothes in festivals and shows and eventually began a storefront in Collinsville in 2011, selling more casual clothing. When a nearby dress shop closed, she took the opportunity to purchase the inventory.

“And I’ve just had fun ever since,” she said.

After three and a half years in Collinsville, she moved her store to Tulsa for about a year. There, she met a friend who helped lead her to downtown Claremore – Sheila Giannelli, owner of Vintique Charm, 323 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

Vintique Charm’s second location was right next door to Red Hot Designs in Tulsa, so when the building at 103 N. Cherokee came available, Sheila mentioned it to her friend.

“I wanted to get back up to the smaller towns, up north,” Brenda explained. “I love it back up toward the smaller towns because it’s more personal, you get to visit with them a little more.”

Red Hot Designs is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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FEATURE FRIDAY: One store evolves from a paint booth to high-end boutique

Years ago, Cari Bohannan and her business partner, Susan Todd, open a furniture painting booth in a downtown Claremore antique store.

That business transformed to the posh boutique at 407 W. Will Rogers Blvd., The District on Main.

“The store was available, and it kind of took off from there,” she said. “We went into full retail and it just sort of evolved from there. We try to get exclusive brands that are only available here in Claremore.”

Some of the exclusive brands they carry are Rustic Cuff, Brighton, Kendra Scott, Frye Boots, Lenny and Eva, Tribal and Lilly Pulitzer.

When she opened the store in 2012, then named Nesting Necessities, downtown Claremore had several empty storefronts, and Cari wanted to change that.
“People that are from here didn’t come downtown,” she said. “I felt like there needed to be life brought back to downtown, make it part of a shopping experience, a destination … And now it’s where a lot of the locals come to do their shopping and buy all their gifts.”

The store’s name changed on its first birthday because the store had morphed into a boutique and the name no longer matched the business, Cari said. She is now the sole owner of the boutique.

Cari said her favorite part about owning a store is the customers she gets.

“The people interaction, getting to meet new people, helping them find the perfect gift or the perfect outfit,” she added.

There’s another change on the horizon for The District on Main. While it will remain its high-end boutique qualities, Cari will be moving her store across the street to 406 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

This month, she bought the building where Nostaglia Nook was located and plans to remodel it to restore it to a more original state – preserving the ghost wall on the west side, saving the tin ceiling and conserving other features of the 107-year-old building.

The goal for the entire project is to be done with the rehab and move The District on Main by October.

“I want to bring it back to its glory. Give it new life,” she said.

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NEW BUSINESS: From Mexico to Main Street: Iron & Pottery Connection opens downtown

A few months ago, Jennifer Coker was a partially retired orthopedic nurse, but opportunity after opportunity presented itself to her, and she’s now the owner of one of the newest downtown Claremore retail stores.

Jennifer opened Iron & Pottery Connection, 321 W. Will Rogers Blvd., on Feb. 11, a mere two-and-a-half weeks after signing the lease on the space.

“I call it a God moment. My husband and I just happened to turn down the street and drive down there and saw that it was empty,” she said. “We weren’t really planning on doing it this early, but when the door is open and you’re being kicked through, you take it.”

The store features Mexican imports, including a variety of chimeneas, home décor, wall art and outdoor garden pieces. Prices range from $5 to several hundred for the larger items.

Every piece is handpicked from Mexico by Jennifer and her husband, Colbie. They make the trek south as often as needed to when merchandise gets low and cash allows it.

​“When we start craving the Mexican food,” she joked.

The merchandise is not cookie-cutter, mass produced items, so the chances of them finding the same thing twice is rare for the couple, and in turn, for customers.

“We never keep the same thing. What might be here today may never be back,” Colbie said. “It usually takes 3-4 days … sometimes it depends on how deep you have to go, too.”

The open building wasn’t the first opportunity afforded to Colbie and Jennifer. Colbie’s parents decided to retire in September from a business selling similar items and offered to sell Jennifer the inventory.

She opened a tent on Highway 20 the following month. While the store had frequent visitors, it was a nightmare to set up and break down the roadside tent every day.

“We had a lot of traffic,” Jennifer said. “It had its pros and cons being there. It was pretty busy the times we were there when the weather would allow us.”

The November weather, however, didn’t offer the business much time to be open. After fighting the weather and wind for two months, Jennifer had had enough.

“So I gave one to Mother Nature and decided to end it all,” she said. “When this space opened, it was like ‘OK, this is it. We’ve got to take it.’”

Now no longer fighting the forces of an unforgiving Mother Nature, the store is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

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FEATURE FRIDAY: Two levels provide endless selection for local book lovers

When Janice Whittaker and her husband, Tracy, bought the building at 300 W. Will Rogers Blvd. nine years ago, Janice began her first venture as a business owner.

While they remodeled half of the bottom floor for their bicycle store and repair shop, Bike-About Bicycles, the top floor became a local bookstore, Boarding House Books.

“During that period of time, an opportunity availed itself to me to get the remaining inventory of a closed out bookstore,” Janice said. “There wasn’t a local bookstore for Claremore and as much as I bicycle, I think my two top passions that fight each other for dominance are biking and reading.”
“I’d always used pre-owned bookstores, and here was my opportunity to own one,” she continued.

The former boarding house’s separate rooms provided a fun space to compartmentalize various genres of books. Perusing through the rooms, one can see the various personalities of the rooms, including an old, claw-foot bathtub full of novels in one or Room 13 full of horror and mystery novels.

Janice expanded the store to include the downstairs area in 2013.

Boarding House Books features about 36,000 books, both new and preowned, allowing book lovers to spend hours browsing. All the books are cataloged and searchable online, so those who prefer to get in and out quickly can do so as well. The bookstore also has a buy-back program and does special orders.

Among those books are 95 titles from nearly 50 local authors, Janice said. Patrons can see three shelves of Oklahoma authors displayed at the front of the store.

“I wanted to put them in a feature space to make it pop so people could find local talent,” Janice said. “These are our people. We have great talent.”

A couple times a year, Janice invites the local authors in for book signings at her store.
One of the most interesting features to the bookstore is the staircase, which features stairs all painted to depict a different novel’s spine or aspects of a novel.

“I finally stripped the steps and invited artists of all capabilities,” Janice said. “We had everyone from high schoolers to people my age doing the steps. So it really became quite interesting, interpretative art, and I love it.”

Boarding House Books also hosts a monthly book club, open to men and women alike. They meet in the store on the second Thursday of the month from 7-9 p.m., and each read the same book, chosen by group consensus, to discuss at the next meeting. All are welcome to join.

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Events planned for Claremore to celebrate the Irish

Claremore has the luck of the Irish this year as three events will give locals a chance to eat, drink and shop while celebrating Irish heritage and St. Patrick’s Day.

On the evening of March 11, St. Paddy’s Party attendees will enjoy great local, Irish bands and dancers, while partaking of delicious food and a fun atmosphere. Those who imbibe can purchase refreshing beer.

Admission the event, which will be on the 400 block of W. Will Rogers Boulevard, is free and open to the public as well as families. It begins at 6 p.m. Additionally, downtown stores will remain open for late-night shopping.

Meals of the Irish-staple corn beef and cabbage or sausage (known as “bangers”) on a bun will be available for $5.
For entertainment, the ever-popular Timothy O’Brian’s Celtic Cheer will kick off the show for the night. They are a local favorite with a joyous sound. Following the band, Goode Irish Academy of Irish Dancing, back for a third year, will showcase Irish dance for all ages.

Frank Smreker will delight the crowd following the dancers and Vintage Wild Flowers, back by popular demand, will close out the evening with sound that will make you believe you’re in Ireland.

Six days later on St. Patrick’s Day, Claremore folks can come out to enjoy the eighth annual Bangers and Mash Lunch, along with more live entertainment, in the Claremore Daily Progress parking lot at 315 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

The lunch is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 17. For $6, attendees can grab a traditional Bangers and Mash meal.

Timothy O’Brian’s Celtic Cheer will provide an encore performance by kicking off the lunch entertainment. Robinson Aire, another local band that stays true to their Irish roots, will follow.

T-shirts will be on sale for $15 at both events. Those who purchase a shirt or wear this year’s or a previous year’s shirt will receive $1 off the lunch.

At the end of the lunch, the hosts will draw the Pot-O-Gold Giveaway grand prize – $400 Green Bucks to spend at participating stores. You do not have to present to win the Pot-O-Gold.

Two smaller Green Bucks drawings will take place during the lunch as well, and winners must be present to win those prizes.

To enter into the Giveaway, visit any of the participating stores between March 1-16 and ask about the Pot-O-Gold Giveaway. No purchase necessary.

Participating stores include Homeward Bound, The Belvidere, Rhapsody Faith and Fashion, Outwest Home Décor, Boomerang, Thrift Harbor, The District on Main, Bike About Bicycles, Boarding House Books, LoliPop A Sweet Boutique, The Cozy Cottage, Willow Tree Mall, The Cranberry Merchant, The Grapevine, The Burlap Closet, Vintique Charm and Iron and Pottery Connection.

All three events are hosted by Claremore Main Street, Inc., a non-profit designed to promote economic growth, preserve and improve the historic value of downtown and champion the downtown businesses. Proceeds of the events will go to the organization to support its mission.

FEATURE FRIDAY: Dorothy’s shares special occasions with generations

Generations of Claremore families visit Dorothy’s Flowers to celebrate special occasions from proms to weddings and anniversaries to funerals – and that’s just how owner Holly Thompson likes it.

Holly, who has owned the shop on 308 W. Will Rogers Blvd. since 1999, said her customers tell stories about their personal history with the flower shop, which originally began on the 500 block of Will Rogers in February of 1947.

“They will say, ‘you did my grandmother’s wedding flowers.’ Or my ‘mom’s bouquet came from here,’” Holly said. “I did their prom and now they’re having children and we’re burying their mom and dad. It’s generational, and it will be here long after I’m gone.”

Holly is the store’s third owner. It began with namesake Dorothy Burnett and her business Dorothy’s Petals and Poodles. The store moved to its current location in 1963.
When Dorothy retired in 1975, one of her employees, Gertrude Riddle, purchased the business and ran it until she sold it to Holly more than two decades later. Holly took over the business because her family, she said.

“I bought the shop mostly because I didn’t want my girls to go to daycare,” she said. “I raised both my girls here. It was just a fluke. I didn’t plan on it.”

Holly has a degree in equine husbandry but found herself helping out a florist friend during major holidays after graduation.

“And here I am 20 some years later,” Holly laughed.

While she started for her girls, she continues for her customers.

“Helping people. Seeing people. Meeting people. No matter what they come through the door for, it’s emotional,” Holly said. “They’re not my customers. They’re friends; they’re family … that’s the personal service you’re lacking at big box stores.”

The flower shop also has jewelry, antiques and little gifts to purchase in addition to custom and ready-made flower arrangements. Custom orders take anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days to complete, depending on the uniqueness of the request. They also deliver.

“People really need to think about, if they want good customer service, they need to shop local,” she said.

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FEATURE FRIDAY: Art Gallery focuses on local artists

Art has always been a part of John David Wolf’s life, dabbling in art as a hobby and touring galleries around the country.

After seeing some of their favorite galleries, he and his wife, Anita, decided owning a gallery was what they would do in retirement. That’s where the dream of Wolf Productions A Gallery of the Arts, now at 510 W. Will Rogers Blvd., began.

One day, on their way home to Oologah Lake from their jobs in Tulsa, their lives changed.

“We used to commute every day on Route 66. One day, we just stopped … and saw that the building was for sale, and we put a bid on it and got it,” John David said. “It was kind of a fluke.”

Originally, they – as well as the bank — thought they were buying 510 W. Will Rogers Blvd., but it turned out to be a two-for-one deal as the lot actually included both 510 and 512 store fronts.

“It took about three years to renovate because everything we could do, we did ourselves,” John David said.

The gallery now sports original tin ceilings, a skylight, exposed brick walls and a stained concrete floor.

“We could see the potential for it,” he said. “I approached it as an art project.”

The store opened on Feb. 14, 2007 and is celebrating its ninth year this month. The idea was to keep it local.

“Our idea was always to be focused on Oklahoma art,” he said.

The art displayed is from Oklahoma artists or artists with Oklahoma ties and the majority of the art hails from the northeastern part of the state.

“It’s fun to be able to represent the artists,” John David said. “And then just meeting the people and hearing their reaction to the art.”

John David served on the Claremore Main Street Board of Directors for six years with a one-year stint as the Board President. He and his wife moved to Claremore after opening the store and his commute went from about 45 miles to a short six-block walk.

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Cash Mob helps local business, charity

A “mob” of local supporters converged in downtown Claremore’s Cozy Cottage, 514 W. Will Rogers Blvd., Tuesday night, spending more than $700 at the store.

The group shopped en masse as part of the Claremore Main Street’s bimonthly Cash Mob. Ten percent of the proceeds from that night will be donated to Rogers County Youth Services, the nonprofit chosen by mobbers.

“It is always great to see everyone during the night of Cash Mob helping to support our downtown merchants and keeping the business local,” said Kathy Glover, owner of Cozy Cottage.

Participants in the Cash Mob agree to attend every other month and spend at minimum $20 at the store chosen at random the night of the event. The goal is to encourage shopping local and the downtown businesses’ success and to support local non-profits.

“I am so grateful to be in a community where people are investing in the lives of our children and families. It means a lot to me,” said Steven Blahut, executive director of RCYS. “I know the challenges the businesses are face these days and the sacrifices they’re making regardless of those challenges.”

The Spring Cash Mob, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 5. The final Cash Mob of the season will be the evening of June 7. To participate in the final two, sign up here.

Outdoor Sporting Expo returns for third year

Outdoor enthusiasts will once again have a place to meet their favorite celebrities, participate in competitions and activities and see a variety of booths sporting all things outdoors as the third annual Outdoor Sporting Expo comes back to Claremore Expo Center on March 12-13.

After a successful second year, Outdoor Sporting Expo is back with even more excitement, including seminars, shopping, bass tub demonstrations, archery competitions, celebrity appearances and more.

A variety of booths featuring hunting, fishing, travel and an assortment of other outdoor-related vendors will pack the Claremore Expo Center’s Expo Hall and Indoor Arena for two days, giving the biggest outdoor fans a chance to explore things that will make their outdoor adventures better than ever.

One of the biggest draws to Outdoor Sporting Expo is the celebrity lineup, which includes professional archer Randy Oitker from the Outdoor Channel and Guinness World Record holder. Oitker’s appearance is presented by Bill’s Sporting Goods.

Other celebrities are bassmaster angler Terry Butcher, bow hunter and outdoor writer Eddie Claypool, Lincoln Tapp, teenage hunter from YoungWild.TV, champion noodlers Colby & Terry Morrow and crappie expert Dale York.

Attendees can also enjoy buck scoring by Jonti Aldrich, bass tub demos with Chuck Deveraux and encore seminars with America’s favorite whitetail deer hunter Roger Raglin.

New to the Outdoor Sporting Expo is an adult and youth 3D archery competition. Children can experience archery fun of their own with the hands-on Right On Target -Archery in Schools Program, as well as participate in a catch-and-release fishing pond and sling shots among others.

Admission is $10 per adult with a discounted price of $6 for veterans, seniors 65 and older and youth. Children 10 years old and younger get into the show for free with an adult. Families who attend Sunday will enjoy the half-price Family Day promotion.

Show hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Outdoor Sporting Expo is sponsored by Hillcrest Hospital Claremore, Grand River Dam Authority, Tulsa RV Sales & Services, Suburban Chevrolet, Nabatak Outdoors, RCB Bank, Bill’s Sporting Goods and Bennett’s Route 66 Pharmacy.

The Expo is hosted by Claremore Main Street, Claremore Chamber of Commerce and Claremore Expo Center.

Vendor booths are still available. For more information, visit the show’s website.