Todd Woodruff and Emily Frosaker are a happy young couple starting out their shops — side by side — in a downtown neighborhood that is being recast to accommodate just such dreams.
Woodruff's Waffle Champion and Frosaker's Dry/Shop, both opened this past week, join a mix of restaurants, apartments, shops and offices developed by MidTown Renaissance, a partnership between Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming.
Woodruff, 34, already had a following with his Waffle Champion food truck, which had become one of the city's top mobile eateries just a few months after hitting the streets.
MidTown seemed like a winning proposition when he signed the lease for his space at 1212 N Walker last year. Since then, the neighborhood has seen the announced additions of hundreds of apartments, a hotel and law school — all unanticipated back in 2011.
“There's a lot of housing coming in, we've got the OCU law school coming, the Osler (Ambassador Hotel) opening next door in the fall — it could not be better timing,” Woodruff said. “Our clientele is built into this neighborhood. If you had told me two years ago this kind of progress would take place, I don't think I would have believed you.”
As lines formed at Waffle Champion on Friday, its grand opening, Woodruff's girlfriend, Frosaker, 27, was enjoying her first week as a salon owner with sister, Caroline, 22. Their Dry/Shop, however, is unlike any salon in city with its emphasis on blow dry hair styling and diverse mix of retail.
“I always wanted to do something with a salon,” Frosaker said. “My sister does hair, so we started doing research on the blow dry bars starting to pop up, and I thought it was a genius idea.”
Woodruff's offering of gourmet sandwiches on waffles was a new twist for Oklahoma City. Frosaker believed the blow dry bar would also create a new option for women looking for a “special look.”
“Women love to get their hair blow dried and styled,” Frosaker said.
“It's a round brush technique, and can last for up to two to three days. You leave with bouncy, fluffy, voluminous hair. It's not something you can do yourself — it's something that can only be done with certain products and techniques.”
Design draws customers
Both Woodruff and Frosaker credit architect Brian Fitzsimmons with creating the perfect home for their new ventures. Fitzsimmons, who also oversaw design of the nearby Guardian Garage apartments, the 430 NW 12 apartments and the Park Place Alley for MidTown Renaissance, worked closely with both entrepreneurs to create their new vibe.
Woodruff said the design was a give and take with Fitzsimmons and project manager Jason Leach. He loved their idea of creating a floor plan and design that they call a “deconstructed waffle.”
But they also went back and forth about seating.
“I wanted to stay ahead of national dining trends,” Woodruff said. “And the trends I see are community style seating. Brian and Jason had the vision of regular seating with community style tables and chairs.”
Woodruff said the design gave his guests control over seating, which was evidenced on very first day of Waffle Champion's invitation-only soft opening on Wednesday.
Fitzsimmons faced some unique challenges in addressing the Dry/Shop space. The building itself is a former garage that was converted into an apartment building by TAParchitecture. Fitzsimmons, tasked with the retail first floor, saw opportunity in using a basement level for preparation space for Waffle Champion and nail salon service for Dry/Shop.
A former garage stairway inspired Fitzsimmons to suggest to Frosaker that it be used to create a “crows nest” spot for her sister's more traditional hair salon.
A colorful stretch of blow dry stations, meanwhile, was established along with a seating area and retail shelves to ensure guests are entertained throughout their visits.
At a glance
Building a new Midtown
Other Midtown Renaissance projects: