Just read over at OKC Central that Wholefoods is planning to open a store in Oklahoma City at the Classen Curve, the Aubrey McClendon funded retail vision of Rand Elliott. This is great news! My wife Maggie (who is an amazing cook) has always been frustrated by the options Oklahoma City offers on things like cheeses, produce, and other specialty items. In truth, her first choice would be Trader Joe’s – great selection and great value. She assures me OKC people would like Trader Joe’s more too, but either way, a Whole Foods will certainly increase the selection available in Oklahoma City, which is definitely a good thing.
What is not a good thing in my opinion, or at least not the best thing, is the apparent location of the new store. The Classen Curve is hidden away, comparatively poorly accessible, and does not address the need for better grocery options closer to downtown. My guess is the people at Whole Foods have studied the situation and determined that this location is better than than anything else available, but I don’t think they fully understand our city. One thing about OKC, that few national retailers seem to grasp, is that the city consists of a patchwork of neighborhoods with varying socioeconomic attributes. And, while there is not a conical epicenter of wealth (Nichols Hills? No, it drops off considerably in almost every direction), there are a number of higher-income nodes that are very accessible to each other, due to: minimal traffic congestion, efficient (i.e. overbuilt) roads, and ample highways. While the immediate demographic ring study may not compare favorably for an area like 10th and Broadway, the location remains very accessible to anyone working downtown, anyone living throughout the historic central city neighborhoods, and anyone as far north as downtown Edmond who wishes to shop at Whole Foods and is willing to drive approx. 15-20 minutes on Broadway Extension to get there. A typical demographic ring study that might make a more congested and more consistently segregated city look good for retail, will not demonstrate, what is really, a collectively strong buying power available in Oklahoma City.
A study that disproves the weaknesses of Oklahoma City’s income demographics, by proving that the accessibility of buying power is favorable (even if the proximity is not), might help the City to attract similar retailers in the future and draw them to locations that make more sense. Who knows, maybe it would even convince another grocer like, oh, say….Trader Joe’s to open a store downtown.
By the way, Napa is beautiful. We are having a great time!…And I still very much look forward to the day we move back to Oklahoma City.