Another icon lost
Petty’s closes its doors this month.
Petty’s original store location at 1829 E. 21st St.
The early January announcement that Petty’s Fine Foods would close its doors in February created immediate emotion from Tulsans living in midtown … and beyond.
Many openly struggled with the thought of our city losing another iconic, locally-owned retail store. Other favorites lost include Miss Jackson’s in January after 106 years in business; Renberg’s in 1998, 85 years; Trippets, 2015, 78 years; and Steve’s Sundry, 2013, after 66 years. Each was a store with a loyal following and a deep anchor in our city’s history.
After the Petty’s announcement, social media predictably lit up with comments, including:
“What a huge loss for Tulsa! Their butchers are without equal in this city. Petty’s has long been the go-to store for anything I couldn’t find elsewhere, and they have been good corporate citizens and given back to this city.”
“I’m really going to miss it. I’ll bet I’m in there four times a week.”
“I always thought Petty’s was a good local brand name. There is a lot of goodwill in the Petty name.”
“Great, another Tulsa tradition going away. What is it with this town — out with the old and in with the new. I’m a fourth generation Tulsan and it appears Tulsa is losing its sense of community.”
“Petty’s is truly the only place in town where real butchers know how to trim meat to perfection. Kids can go in and get a free cookie. Their catering arrangements are fabulous. Tulsa is losing a member of its family. Truly a sad day for Tulsa.”
And this one from Oklahoma City:
“Petty’s was a living version of our old Kamp’s store in Oklahoma City. The old-style floors and the home-style service. The great German foods and the excellent meats. Maybe Petty’s can do like Kamp’s did and just open a small deli or meat market.”
The Petty’s store was established in February 1945 by L.G. Rowan and Robert D. Petty, each the grandfather of current owner Scott Petty. The business opened at 1829 E. 21st St. — the northwest corner of East 21st Street and South Wheeling Avenue — under the name Rowan & Petty Food Market.
The two partners financed their new store by pooling their savings of $750 each and borrowing $25,000 from a bank and $2,500 from Mrs. Bailey W. Vinson, a store customer. Several store customers prepaid grocery purchases for up to a year to help capitalize the new business.
During the 1940s and ’50s, Rowan & Petty established its reputation as a fine specialty food store offering charge accounts, delivery service, quality meats and outstanding customer service. The store prospered. In 1957 Robert J. Petty, son of the co-founder, joined the business after service in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command, and became an industry leader. Son Scott Petty joined the business in 1972 following his graduation from Oklahoma State University and then U.S. Army service in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot. He and wife Maureen purchased the business in 1985.
“Maureen’s launching and managing of what would become a very successful catering operation out of the store was a key contributor to our success,” Scott notes.
Longtime customers and observers of the seven-decade-old business seemed to recognize and appreciate Petty’s strict adherence to the store’s original mission of providing quality products and excellent service. Petty’s obtained longtime success despite being in a retail business challenged by high operating costs, low margins and plenty of competition for the food dollar.
“It’s been gratifying to be a part of the lives of so many families in Tulsa,” said Scott Petty. “The loyalty of our customers and our dedicated employees the reason for the success and longevity of our company. It’s been a long run and we have so many memories.”
Petty said he and Maureen were “truly overwhelmed” by the response of people after the store closing announcement.
1944: Grocery manager L.G. Rowan and meat market manager Robert D. Petty, employees at Fikes Food Store, decide to pool their money and experience to open their own store.
1945: Rowan & Petty Food Market opens at 1829 E. 21st St.
1957: Co-founder Robert D. Petty retires and sells his share of the business to his son, Robert J. Petty.
1969: Co-founder L.G. Rowan retires from the business.
1972: Store moves from original location to 1964 Utica Square. Scott Petty, son of Robert J., joins the business.
1975: Brad Petty, son of Robert J., joins the business and serves as VP until 1991.
1985: Robert J. Petty retires and son Scott and wife Maureen Petty acquire full ownership.
1993: Maureen Petty adds a successful catering business.
2016: Scott Petty announces the closing of the store in February upon completion of Utica Square lease.