By DANIEL C. CAMERON
TULSA’S OWN: Mary Beth Babcock has created a hub for local art and other wares. Shoppers can drink local Topeka coffee while they browse Dwelling Spaces’ eclectic gathering of Oklahoma’s finest crafts available to the public.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
Mary Beth Babcock owns Dwelling Spaces, a downtown Tulsa boutique that specializes in items made by Oklahomans. The store is just over three years old and has already expanded to a second location. Babcock is a retail genius with a penchant for quality boutique gifts. “I like to provide an eclectic group of gifts for people to choose from and the fact that it happens to be people from Oklahoma is a huge bonus,” says Babcock.
Babcock is a retail management graduate from Oklahoma State University. She always wanted an eclectic gift shop. Right after college, in 1995 she worked for JCrew and Neiman Marcus in Dallas, TX. In 2006 Babcock worked for Zach Matthews of Pie Hole Pizzeria. All the while, she was planning her dream business.
Babcock was creating, on paper, a place where she could sell her favorite merchandise and favorite lines. She had no real idea where the plan was going at that point. “To be honest, this Oklahoma thing was not in my original plan,” she remembers. “That whole thing has just evolved.”
Jack Allen, a friend of Babcock, had a furniture store called “Dwelling Spaces.” She went to him for advice on how to open a store, but he was in the process of closing his doors. They worked out a deal and she bought the name and some of his furniture and Babcock was ready for business. However, she still needed a storefront.
Babcock approached Michael and Patricia Sager about a spot they owned at 119 South Detroit in Tulsa’s Blue Dome Arts District. She pitched them with her idea for a unique gift shop with furniture. She felt it was grandiose, but they were impressed and let her do it.
Dwelling Spaces soon opened at 2nd and Detroit. They still carry some furniture today, but the store’s primary motif is a gift shop.
The transition to selling Oklahoma gifts was organic.
It began with some of Steve Cluck’s “I Love Tulsa” t-shirts. Cluck was a student at the University of Tulsa when he made one of these shirts for a friend when more of his friends wanted his shirts for themselves.
Babcock put a few stacks of Cluck’s t-shirts in Dwelling Spaces and they flew out the door. “It was cool to see how many people loved Oklahoma and were proud to be from Oklahoma and wanted to show, ‘yeah, I’m from Oklahoma’” says Babcock. “That’s where it all stems from, the Louis and Cluck t-shirts.”
More and more people bought Louis and Cluck’s shirts and Babcock began adding Oklahoma-produced items as the demand grew. Dwelling Spaces features art from Tulsa’s Joe Andoe, who lives in New York and is world famous for his work. More Oklahoman products include art from Chad Mount, a Tulsan who lives in Oklahoma City and produces under the name Tribalbot. Babcock comments on the local items she offers, “the quality, the art that comes out of here blows my mind.” Others include Topeka Coffee, Felix and Jane’s bags, A Studio, Flaming Lips, John Woolly, Live for This and Jeremy Charles’ photography from the Loose Leaf studio.
All this Oklahoma loving has created a movement of pride.
Babcock jumped in on the action and created a brand for herself, “Okie Grown.” The logo has a rustic Oklahoma look with the Oklahoma state bird, the Scissor-tailed flycatcher, emblazoned in the middle. Lee Roy Chapman and Greg Williams of Black Mesa Studio created the design. “We’ve just gone nuts with that. We carry t-shirts, baby bibs, pint glasses; I mean we’ve got it all. You name it, we can do it.” says Babcock.
The Tulsa Historical Society has an agreement with Dwelling Spaces where historic photos of Tulsa are sold in Dwelling Spaces and Okie Grown products are sold at the gift shop. Babcock and Joshua Peck, archivist, came up with the agreement as they realized the importance of each other’s pursuits to promote Tulsa.
Dwelling Spaces main location is 119 S. Detroit Ave. in downtown Tulsa, and the satellite location is at 511 S. Boston Ave. You can visit it online at www.dwellingspaces.net.