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Made in Oklahoma: The Prairie Gypsies

Published: September 17, 2008
Address: 415 NW 30.

Web site:

Founded: 1994.

Employees: Five full-time, "several” part-time, and "lots of friends and family.”

Key personnel: Debbie Leland and Beverly "B.J.” White.

Product: Jams, jellies, mustards and dressings, meals to go, catering.

Background: Kids are in the store admiring the brownies, Debbie Leland and B.J. White are discussing a shipment and cracking jokes in the office, and artist Phillip Matthews is in the kitchen drawing sketches on aluminum wrappings for pizzas.

This is just another day at The Prairie Gypsies catering company, whose products are shipped nationwide and carried in gift shops such as Oklahoma's Red Dirt Emporium in Bricktown.

It's a business plan that Leland and White say occurred quite by accident.

"We were friends,” Leland said. "I found myself needing to make a living and I had catered since 1979. B.J. being such a good friend, she said ‘I'll help you.' But I had forgotten to tell her the part about long hours having to stand up and the heavy lifting.”

The women are equally good-humored about how they came up with their name.

"It involves a crazy quilt backpack, a prison art show and a bottle of wine,” White teases.

"I usually let people come up with their own stories because it's better than what we can come up with.”

The real story dates back to White's days as an art instructor. She bought what she calls a "crazy quilt backpack” designed by a prisoner from Mabel Bassett Correctional Center during a show at the state Capitol.

Continue reading this story on the...

B.J. White and Debbie Leland show off some of the garden-grown vegetables used in their kitchen. By Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman


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