Shopping with Local Merchants Benefits Economy, Environment

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

BUYING LOCAL: Broken Arrow mother and daughter Rachel and Dailey Whitehouse try on jewelry made by several local artists at Brookside business Must Stash.

BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers

As the holiday season approaches, what fun we can have learning to make our dollars even greener by finding gifts that not only bring smiles to our loved ones’ faces, but that come from home. I’m talking about buying local, organic, or even repurposed gifts.

According to Tulsa-Centric, a company created to support local businesses, “For every $100 you spend at a local merchant, 68 of those dollars return to the community. When spent at a national chain, only $43 stay in the community.” This doesn’t even take in to consideration how much we’re lessening our carbon footprint by cutting down on shipping, hauling and packaging.

As I started the search of local products and merchants, it became quite clear that our area is aplenty with offerings, ideas and shops. I found several merchants in Midtown that not only offer someone local from whom to purchase a heartwarming and thoughtful gift, but products that also utilize repurposed or organic materials. Leather pieces from a couch covering becomes a hot accessory, vintage clothing gets a facelift, beer byproduct becomes a doggie treat, and bits of wire and beads become baubles to bedazzle.

My first stop nestled in Brookside was Ida Red. It was hard to pass up the racks of Tom’s Shoes, which when purchased gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need. (Talk about heartwarming.) But I had my eye on local product Okie Crowe, which includes beer-based soaps and dog treats created by fellow Tulsa Master Recycler Kelli Groblewski.

“My husband is a beer home brewer,” says Groblewski. “Now, our compost bin can only take so much discarded oats and hops, so I just kept thinking about how I could repurpose these piles of beer leftovers. Also, when I’d attend his meetings or taste testings, I’d want to be involved but there’s only so much of that talk a girl can take. Somehow, I came up with the idea and it’s been a real hit in the homebrew community and now beyond, thanks to local merchants.” In the Tulsa area, you can currently find Okie Crowe at Ida Red, Groggs’ Green Barn, High Gravity and Mecca Coffee Co. In Bixby, you can find Okie Crowe products at Refuge Lifestyle and Beauty Unlimited.

While in the Brookside area, it’s hard to miss the giant purple mustache painted on the side of the big white wall at 37th and Peoria. This little store is a delight and is filled with products created by local artisans. Must Stash is owned and operated by native Tulsan Ashley James who says she wanted to provide her community with cute, trendy clothing that comes without the big price tag. James is in awe of her success but not surprised. “I love this town. We support one another in Tulsa. We’re all neighbors. I couldn’t have opened Must Stash in New York City. It’d have been swallowed up. It’s a thrill to give back to my community and provide this niche that was missing in our marketplace, and support our local clothiers, jewelers and artists.”

After picking up some specialty cheese from LaDonna’s Fancy Foods (another great local merchant who provides cheese made in Oklahoma, some by her own hands, not to mention all the chocolate), I noticed a sign on Cherry Street stating, “50% off at Chrome.” Well, what girl passes up a sign like that? So, I popped in to discover that Chrome Clothing Company also has a penchant for supporting cute fashions and local artists. I will not tell you how much my research cost me that day. I will only say my mother’s favorite phrase on this topic, “But it was on sale!”

I know I haven’t even begun to cover all our local shops and sellers such as Pamper Me, a new store in Brookside where owner and operator Pam Brown sells her personal line of organic face creams, body lotions, and more.

Or the downtown shop, Joe Robot where you can enjoy a cup of Joe (pun intended) while perusing the many books, albums, art and clothing created by and for Oklahomans. Not to mention Living Arts of Tulsa for an original piece of art created by someone in our community.

Now, if all this talk of what you can get right here from home might inspire you to try your hand at repurposing castaway items into purchasable or gift-able art, go ahead and give it a try. Test your talent by submitting a ready-to-sell piece for the “Recycled Art Show,” hosted by Tulsa Master Recycler Lauren Lunsford. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 10. The show and art sale will be held at Rainbowland located at 1151 S. Peoria Ave. Nov. 12-15. This event will honor American Recycle Day which is held annually on Nov. 15. Lunsford says that 35 percent of sales will go to the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association, which is a volunteer-based educational arm of the city for all things recycling.

Holiday shopping in general gives me hives. Panic attacks me randomly as Christmas creeps closer, taking the joy out of this alleged joyful time. However, when I begin to see how I can support my local economy, shrink my carbon footprint and discover one-of-a-kind gifts for those I love, it turns the tide back to happiness and makes shopping an adventure instead of a chore. If these ideas create ideas of your own, share them with us either online at or through our facebook page at Newspapers.

Updated 11-07-2011

Back to Top


email (we never post emails)
  Textile Help

Back to Top

Contact GTR News