A couple years ago I began writing about locals' desire to see a Whole Foods or Central Market open in Oklahoma City, and it wasn't too long after that I first made the acquaintance of Robert Pemberton.
Pemberton was cordial as he inquired as to why residents couldn't appreciate the locally-produced goods and organic groceries already being sold at his family's Crescent Market.
Pemberton believed that local residents weren't giving his grocery a shot at proving it offered much of what could be found at the hip big city markets — just without all the bells and whistles.
My wife and I stopped in and did some shopping. Pemberton was right; he had some of the same items we had previously bought on shopping trips to Whole Foods in Tulsa.
And Crescent Market was truly a historic landmark, dating to the very birth of the city. For a history geek like me, Crescent Market was a virtual field trip.
Settler John Wyatt rolled into the newly opened Indian Territory with enough supplies in his covered wagon to open the store, then known as J.L. Wyatt Grocery. It opened the day of the Land Run — April 22, 1889 — in a tent with a dirt floor.
Wyatt sold to Simmons & Forsberg Grocers in 1895. John Thomas and John Lloyd bought it in 1906 and renamed it The Crescent Grocery.
In 1927, Thomas moved the store to Plaza Court at NW 10 Street and Walker Avenue, where it remained until the 1960s.
The store was a million-dollar-a-year business by the mid-1920s. In 1939, the store had more than 50 employees, and a fleet of 11 delivery trucks.
Art L. Pemberton, bought into the store in 1942 after operating a Muskogee grocery store his father founded in 1900. The store moved to Nichols Hills Plaza in 1948.
By the early 1970s, the delivery service was getting more expensive because of skyrocketing gasoline prices and insurance rates.
In 1971, Pemberton decided to pull the plug on the delivery service, but, ever the businessman, he chose his words carefully in a letter he wrote to customers, promising they would always have exceptional service and charge accounts at Crescent (those accounts were ended this week).
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