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  1. #1

    Default BC Clark expanding downtown location

    Jeweler to expand downtown location

    By Steve Lackmeyer
    The Oklahoman

    If the fortunes of B.C. Clark Jewelers is any indicator, downtown Oklahoma City’s retail drought may be nearing an end.

    The family-owned business didn’t abandon downtown 30 years ago, as did many of its competitors, and the jewelers report their 31st year at 101 Park Avenue was the best yet for the downtown location. Now the family is expanding their downtown store so that the storefront also will front Broadway.

    “We’ve always felt we have a commitment to downtown,” said Coleman Clark, vice president. “We like being downtown. It was our great-grandfather who started the business and moved it downtown from Purcell in 1929. We’ve always felt strong ties to downtown and, as other jewelers left, we expanded and sustained a good business here.”

    Jim Clark, president, recalls a time when B.C. Clark Jewelers competed against more than 15 other downtown jewelers. All left when the heart of the downtown retail district, Main Street, was gutted by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority for a shopping mall that was never built.

    “I can’t remember a more exciting time downtown than right now,” said Jim Clark, who has worked with the downtown store for 40 years. “When I first arrived in the 1960s, downtown was already on a downward path ... but I don’t think there has ever been a single time when we entertained the notion of leaving.”

    Jim Clark said his sons, Coleman and Mitchell, were interested in expanding the downtown store - and jumped on the opportunity to lease up the east half of the first floor of the 101 Park Avenue Building when the space became available.

    The expansion, which began this week, will add 30 percent more display space. Once complete, the current store space on the west side of the building’s first floor will be converted into B.C. Clark’s corporate offices, which are in the building’s Conncourse level.

    The Conncourse space will then be used for storage.

    “Our new downtown store will be state of the art with a totally new layout and design,” Jim Clark said. “We’ll have outside light from windows on the north, east and south sides of the new store, and a wonderful view of Kerr Park and all the new and exciting changes taking place across Broadway at the Skirvin Hilton.”

    B.C. Clark Jr., chairman emeritus, expects the expansion will draw visitors from the Skirvin Hilton, which will reopen next February after being closed for 18 years.

    “Back when the Skirvin was real active, and we had all the conventions with bankers and lawyers, the people would come in a lot - especially the women,” B.C. Clark said.

    B.C. Clark Jr., 93, said he’s happy his son and grandsons share his enthusiasm for downtown. Staying, he said, wasn’t always so easy. He said people underestimated the downtown store’s ties to nearby businesses and to out-of-towners who prefer to shop in the heart of the city.

    “This last year was my 75th working at the downtown store,” B.C. Clark Jr. said. “I’ve seen a lot of things - the Depression, the dust bowl days, the oil boom and bust, the stock market up and down. The thing that has kept us in business has always been our wonderful friends, customers and employees.”

    B.C. Clark Jr. said he’s happy with downtown’s renaissance - but it still doesn’t compare to downtown in the late 1920s when his dad B.C. Clark first opened for business in Oklahoma City near Robinson and Harvey.

    “That was the busiest corner in town,” B.C. Clark Jr. said. “As a kid, that’s where I started working. I ran a lot errands, and the foot traffic was so heavy in that area, we’d go down alleys to get where we were going.”

    Both Chuck Wiggin, who manages the 101 Park Avenue Building, and Dave Lopez, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., think the jewelers’ expansion will spur more downtown retail. Wiggin said with the expansion, B.C. Clark will occupy 12,600 square feet.

    “That’s quite a commitment and shows just how much B.C. Clark believes in the future of downtown,” Wiggin said.

    Lopez said the expansion coincides with new owners of the First National Center considering how to expand retail activity in their first floor arcade. That strip along the south side of Park Avenue, is already home to a Hallmark store, coffee shop and an office supply store.

    Lopez also thinks proximity of Park Avenue to the Skirvin Hilton, Colcord Hotel, Renaissance Hotel and Sheraton Hotel will provide an opportunity for retailers hoping to lure in out-of-town visitors.

    “The expansion of B.C. Clark to a location across from the Skirvin will give us more visibility for retail - and we have a company here with a century of history that is increasing their investment downtown,” Lopez said. “That should say a lot to other retailers.”

  2. #2

    Default Re: BC Clark expanding downtown location

    That's great!

    Whenever I'm in the market for jewelry/watches, I always shop BC Clark, and I make those purchases at their downtown store.

    Kudos to them for staying downtown when it was the 'cool thing to do' to head to the burbs.

  3. Default Re: BC Clark expanding downtown location

    exceptional!!!

    i hope (and am sure) that this is only the beginning. I say, Starbucks storefront across the street at FNC arcade would surely bring in needed pedestrian traffic to that area. From there, the sky is the limit (figuratively, and literally - [as in the nearby skyscrapers :boff: ]!!!)
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  4. Default Re: BC Clark expanding downtown location

    That's a great story. It's hard to grasp that B.C. Clark, Jr. has worked at the downtown store for 75 years and remembers the bustling downtown of the 1920s. Amazing.

    ------

  5. Default Re: BC Clark expanding downtown location

    Yes, this is TRULY a great story ... even a tear jerker for downtown Okc romantics like me ... a downtown retail store that spans many decades and one which did not join the mass exodus to leave downtown in the 60s-80s when almost all others took flight to the malls (e.g. Balliets, which was in the same building that Clark's is presently in (then called the Skirvin Tower) and sooo many others, e.g., Browns, Rothchilds, Streets, to name a few) ... and the business remains all owned within the same family to this day.

    B.C. Clark Jewelers is SO deserving of an award from someone for their perseverance and their "stick-to-downtown" character ... in thick and in thin. I think that they are the only one. Big time Kudos from me to the BC Clark Family and to all of its famiily members.

  6. #6

    Default Re: BC Clark expanding downtown location

    BC Clark is a truly great Oklahoma City company.

    I've known Jim Clark and his family since I was a little kid... They lived a couple of blocks over and his daughter Sheryl was good friends with my sister.

    When Jim became the head of BC Clark in the late 70's, they stayed in the same modest neighborhood and merely bought a little nicer, larger home.

    Sheryl and her two brothers (now heavily involved in the company) and Jim and his wife are some of the nicest, most humble, and most down-to-earth people you'll ever meet.

    I'm so glad they stuck with downtown through some very tough times and are thriving. The deserve every bit of success they get.

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