When customers first walk into the Dwelling Spaces boutique downtown, it’s easy to see that the store radiates a pride for Tulsa.
A small TV repeatedly plays historian Jack Frank’s "Tulsa Deco" video for customers to watch as they comb through racks of casual tops promoting area bands, Tulsa landmarks and sustainable campaigns, as well as the popular "I ❤ Tulsa" T-shirts.
Here, local designers sell their headbands, jewelry, handbags, buttons, bumper stickers and more, while CDs honoring Oklahoma musicians and books written by Tulsans fill the shelves.
Young entrepreneur Mary Beth Babcock owns this homage to Tulsa and has maintained her downtown store at East Second Street and South Detroit Avenue for almost three years.
"There is a totally different vibe in downtown Tulsa that I love being a part of," Babcock says. "I think if you asked Elliot Nelson (a restaurateur) or any other downtown business owner, they would tell you the same thing."
More than 85 local artists, authors and musicians sell their products within Babcock’s store, but she admits it’s been by accident — selling predominately native merchandise wasn’t even a goal when she originally opened.
"I just wanted a hip shop selling unique items you couldn’t find at every other store," she says.
Despite her store’s unintentional focus on Tulsa and the state, she says she enjoys selling merchandise created by local artists.
"It’s fulfilling to sell their work because I am helping them fulfill their dreams," she says.
Born and raised in Bartlesville, Babcock says she’s always been attracted to Tulsa. Memories of shopping with her mother in the "big city" and enjoying treats at a local candy shop have stayed with her, as has her love for her home state.
After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in retail merchandising, she worked as the assistant manager of inventory control in Eskimo Joe’s print shop and then moved to Dallas, where she worked with the visual staff at Neiman Marcus’ flagship store.
"My main job was to do all of the displays for handbags, accessories, jewelry, makeup and fragrances," she says.
And although Babcock often worked with representatives from such designer labels as Chanel, Kate Spade and Gucci, she knew she wanted to return to her roots.
After her stint in Dallas, Babcock had returned to Tulsa and worked here nine years when Jack Allen offered her his furniture store so she could start her own retail business. Using his store’s name, she moved to the current downtown address, which had once been a large storage building.
"When I took over, I wanted a new location, and the downtown spot where I’m at had a New York/Soho feel to it," Babcock says.
Babcock also opened a mini Dwelling Spaces within the historic Philcade building, which is open during the weekday lunch hour.
Because she’s part of the downtown culture, Babcock says she works with neighboring and independent business owners, such as Eloté owner Libby Auld, to keep downtown growing.
"Libby and I share the same enthusiasm about wanting downtown Tulsa to take off," she says. "It is motivating when you can work with other people who have a similar vision as you do."
Besides working at her store six days a week, Babcock enjoys exploring roadside attractions along Route 66 (her store is located on the famous highway), eating at local restaurants, spending time with loved ones, listening to live music at Cain’s Ballroom and watching movies at the Circle Cinema.
She also has maintained membership with Tulsa’s Young Professionals (TYPros) for two years and has voiced that the organization can host any event at Dwelling Spaces or use the store as a home base for volunteer purposes during events like Dfest.
"I’ve worked close with their members, and I want to do whatever I can to help the organization," she says.
Babcock plans to keep downtown Tulsa as the center of her store’s activity, as she hopes to keep downtown foot traffic moving.
"Dwelling Spaces is such a pro-Oklahoma shop, and I think people are craving retail in downtown Tulsa," she says. "I am trying to create a reason for people to come support downtown."