"Investors are seeing our potential"
Published June 13, 2023
Downtown Sapulpa enjoys strong growth
The Waypoint Lounge, 111 S. Main St.
Many observers wondered what blessings downtown Sapulpa might see from last year’s inaugural Route 66 Christmas Chute, which drew national accolades and thousands of tourists.
This spring’s commercial activity might surprise this historic district’s strongest supporters.
● Three businesses opened in the first five months of 2023, with several more under construction.
“We’re starting to see a lot of people put down roots here,” he said. “They want to give the city a new image, make it feel more modern. We can create anything here!”
● Four downtown buildings changed hands so far this year, equal to all those sold last year.
“They’re going to be bringing more retail to downtown,” said Cindy Lawrence, director of Sapulpa Main Street. “Any time you add new retail, it drives people downtown. And the city’s working hard to help us keep moving forward.”
● Contractors started groundwork in May for phase 2 of the city’s downtown alley renovation project. This will give the central core a new park, decorative gathering areas, and pedestrian-friendly walkways.
City leaders are finalizing plans for similar improvements along Dewey Street through the center of downtown Sapulpa. These enhancements include landmarks celebrating Dewey’s Route 66 heritage.
“More and more people now recognize that we have a lot of untapped, fertile ground,” said David Reed, principal of Reed Architecture and Interiors. His firm, which moved to downtown Sapulpa in 2020, serves as project manager for the city’s downtown master plan.
“Our city has long been one of the Tulsa area’s best-kept secrets,” said Reed, a longtime Sapulpa supporter. “Now investors are seeing our potential.”
Downtown Sapulpa claims roughly 30 blocks of commercial buildings, most dating back to Oklahoma’s oil boom heydays. A National Historic District designation covers much of that business area.
“It provides a lot of growth opportunities, both now and in the future,” said Chad O’Roark, who opened Sugar Llamas on April 12.
O’Roark said his 119 E. Hobson Ave. location makes a wonderful home for Sugar Llamas, a gourmet donut, ice cream, and coffee shop. Its first floor offers plenty of space for patrons to relax and enjoy themselves, while the upstairs provides meeting space for up to 70 people.
Downtown Sapulpa area businesses opened this spring include:
• Sugar Llamas, a gourmet donut, ice cream, and coffee shop, 119 E. Hobson Ave.
• The Tee Pee Drive-In, a movie theater and event space, 13166 W. Ozark Trail on Route 66.
• The Waypoint Lounge, an e-sports lounge, restaurant, and bar, 111 S. Main St.
Downtown Sapulpa businesses under construction include:
• Arrowhead Realty is renovating two floors at 205 E. Dewey Ave. for offices.
• The Crossroads Cookery’s outdoor dining and event space.
• D.C. Bass and Sons Construction, which is renovating 101 E. Hobson Ave. for its new headquarters.
• Little Taiyaki, a Japanese waffles and soft-serve ice cream shop, 24 E. Dewey Ave.
Chad O'Roak in Sugar Llamas, 119 E. Hobson Ave.
“We had been praying for a location where we could offer the community not just food but a comfortable gathering place,” he said. “As soon as they unlocked this door and we walked in here, we knew this was it. This was exactly where we wanted to be.
“This is going to be our home base store,” he said. “We plan to have multiple locations, with Sapulpa as our headquarters. Our next one should open later this year in Texas.”
The 9,000-square-foot Waypoint Lounge, 111 S. Main St., sets another example of how established structures may meet today’s high-tech needs. Renovations to this former auto service center provide a colorful home for Waypoint’s 40 customer computers, 14 gaming consoles, a giant 36-foot main screen, and multiple LED wall screens stationed around the restaurant and bar.
“You usually find these lounges in places like New York or Las Vegas,” said Chandler. “This is definitely unique for a small town like Sapulpa.”
Sapulpa’s Route 66 assets include:
• Several miles of original roadway, which remain in daily use.
• Three miles of protected roadway through downtown.
• Bridge 18 at Rock Creek, the highway’s oldest surviving trestle bridge.
• The Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum.
• The Route 66 Rock Creek Park.
• The Tee Pee Drive-in.
• A beautiful water tank mural near the bridge.
Video of proposed Dewey Streetcape makeover
Waypoint marks the Kante Group’s second Sapulpa business launch this year and the fifth in the last two years. On April 15, after decades of inactivity, the beautifully restored Tee Pee Drive-In opened just west of downtown on Route 66.
“We wanted to bring back the energy and life Sapulpa used to have back in the day,” said Chandler. “Many of our projects are designed that way – to revitalize the town and make it a fun place to hang out.”
Sapulpa leaders have taken a similar strategy with a much larger vintage asset. Last year the city acquired roughly three miles of historic Route 66 through downtown and western Sapulpa. This allows the city to host celebrations and events like the Route 66 Christmas Chute.
With the Mother Road’s 2026 centennial approaching, Sapulpa’s Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum is preparing a 60-percent expansion. The city also hopes to celebrate this with its Dewey streetscape improvements.
“I think we’re only now realizing just how important Route 66 is to our city,” said Michael Jones, whose Gasoline Alley Classics auto memorabilia gift shop opened last year along the legendary path.
Sapulpa was reminded of this asset’s value with the Tee Pee Drive-In debut, which drew international attention from Route 66 enthusiasts. The highway also played a role in Sapulpa Main Street winning three of this year’s Oklahoma Main Street awards:
• Best Visual Merchandising, for Gasoline Alley Classics.
• Best Adaptive Reuse Project Over $25,000, also for Gasoline Alley Classics.
• Most Creative New Event, for last year’s inaugural two-month Route 66 Christmas Chute.
Lawrence said downtown maintained its Christmas Chute momentum with three other successful events this spring.
“Activity breeds activity,” said Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce President Janet Birnie. “We’ve always known how good a place Sapulpa could be. Now other people are starting to get that same idea. When they think of Sapulpa, they think of something positive. They think of action. They think of growth.
“I feel very fortunate to be in our position,” she said. “I think it’s just going to get better.”