Drugstore to leave Nichols Hills Plaza after 49 years

Nichols Hills Drugstore will move this month at 7538 N Berkley after its owner learned the store would not be included in plans for new grocery at Nichols Hills Plaza.
BY STEVE LACKMEYER slackmeyer@opubco.com Published: January 17, 2013

Nichols Hills Drugstore, the oldest tenant of Nichols Hills Plaza, is moving out after learning from the plaza's owner, Chesapeake Energy, that it would no longer be included in plans for a new grocery.

J. Braden Black, owner of Nichols Hills Drugstore, is set to move operations to 7538 N Berkley on Jan. 28, ending 49 years at Nichols Hills Plaza.

While Black was worried about uncertainty surrounding a previously planned replacement for one-time neighbor Crescent Market, Black said his departure was ultimately triggered by a request by Chesapeake officials to move into a larger, more expensive space elsewhere in the plaza.

“I'd be disingenuous if I said I wasn't disappointed in how we've been misled,” Black said. “But that's not why we're moving. What they offered was too big and more expensive than what we wanted to pay.”

Officials with Chesapeake Energy declined to comment on the drugstore's move or whether they plan to move forward with a new grocery in the plaza.

The departure of the drugstore continues years of uncertainty about plans for the shopping center where it was once common to see the same anchor tenants remain in place for decades.

Nichols Hills Drugstore and the neighboring Crescent Market were retail anchors for the area for almost five decades when the shopping plaza was purchased by Chesapeake Energy for $27.5 million in January 2006.

Two years after the purchase, officials with Chesapeake shared a master plan with tenants that proposed reconstruction of the older, south half of the plaza — home to both Crescent Market and Nichols Hills Drugstore.

In October 2011, Crescent Market owner Robert Pemberton decided to close his doors after Chesapeake officials sought to hike his rent by $6,000 per month.

That, in turn, shut off a convenient supply of fresh meat and produce to the legendary lunch counter at the Nichols Hills Drugstore.

As Black prepared to shut down the lunch counter over public pleas to keep it open, he was asked by Chesapeake officials to move to a smaller, temporary space in the plaza.

In a January 2012 interview with The Oklahoman, Chesapeake's senior vice president of land, Henry Hood, said a new grocery would replace Crescent and would also feature a lunch counter with a bigger menu and more seating. Black said he was told his drugstore would be incorporated into the rebuilt grocery, which Chesapeake officials once indicated would open by fall 2012.

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