Retailers follow downtown housing growth; gourmet market to open in Deep Deuce area of OKC

Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 7:00 am

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY - As Brenda Craiger worked to sell downtown condominiums, people kept asking when retailers were coming. Now she has an answer.

Craiger is the marketing director for Triangle Development, the group building The Brownstones at Maywood Park and condo projects on the northeast side of downtown in the Flatiron area.

The Triangle Group began planning the projects about four years ago. The company now has 20 brownstones built, with work under way on a loft project. About 25 percent of the brownstones are sold.

In November, pizza restaurant The Wedge opened in Deep Deuce. Sage Gourmet Cafe & Market is set to open in May, and last week sandwich chain Jimmy John's leased space on N. Harrison Avenue with plans to open in July.

"A lot of people asked for a market," she said. "Now that we have Sage coming in, it helps me."

Maywood and the Second Street Lofts have some office and retail space, but Craiger said the focus has been selling residential units. At the lofts, the group plans to offer 30,000 square feet of office space for lease or sale.

Sage is in the historic Littlepage Building surrounded by the 294-unit Deep Deuce at Bricktown apartments and near Grant Humphreys' Block 42 condo project.

Charifa and Kevin Smith's Sage will be a restaurant and bar in one part and will include a store for sundries and gourmet takeout food items. It's set to have a soft opening in April.

Charifa Smith said neighbors have been stopping by the store, at 228 NE Second St., to see what's going on inside.

"We've taken down the paper off the windows," she said. "People just come right in and ask when we're opening."

The new eateries join Leo's Bar-B-Q and the Deep Deuce Grill in offering neighborhood dining.

Craiger said as each new business takes a chance on the area, it helps everyone.

"New businesses can only have a positive impact on the neighborhood," she said.

Since opening in November, Elena Farrar, general manager of The Wedge, said the restaurant has been busy with a mix of locals, tourists and people who drive in from the suburbs.

The original Wedge is on Western Avenue. Farrar said the Deep Deuce restaurant, with seating for 75, opened in anticipation of the new housing.

"We're a neighborhood spot on Western and we wanted to be a neighborhood spot here as well," she said. "Our busiest nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We're always on a wait those nights."

National chains, like Jimmy John's, can lend credibility to an area, but Farrar said she would like to see more local businesses.

"I would love to see it stay local," she said. "That's really important."

Humphreys said he is pleased with the retail that has followed the rooftops in that area, even while many residential projects are still under construction.

"I'm happy to see the retail that has come in is local, community-building retail," Humphreys said. "That's really important for the formation of a neighborhood and an urban community."

As the economy improves, Humphreys said incremental growth of retail in the Deep Deuce and Flatiron areas was likely.

"We're still at the preliminary stages of community formation in that area," he said.

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