Five years have passed since Matt Runkle and his wife, Sara, first dreamed up the idea for opening Native Roots Market in Norman. Yet he still excitedly lists off cleaning products, cereals, meats, dairy, poultry, seasonings and other grocery staples unique to his store — as if it's still opening day.
Customers share in that excitement, including visiting celebrities, who, like Willie Nelson, have found Native Roots a perfect stop for finding hard-to-get specialties like honey combs.
Runkle and his wife, Sara Kaplan, hope downtown Oklahoma City residents will soon share in that excitement as they prepare to open a second Native Roots Market in Deep Deuce next year.
The location itself, the future Level Urban Apartments, is still under construction. The corner spot at NE 2 and Walnut was reserved for such a grocery by developer Richard McKown from the moment the project was announced last year.
“It's been a huge priority,” McKown said. “It's not that it was hard to make it happen. It was hard to find the space to make it happen. We turned it over to Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the designers, and said ‘Guys, this is paramount. The city wants this store. We need free parking. We need it integrated into the building. We need the highest visibility possible.'”
That very effort was key in attracting Runkle, Sara Kaplan, and her parents Steve and Joan Kaplan. McKown was visiting with Steve Kaplan on unrelated business last year when he asked his friend if he knew of any grocers who might be interested in opening a store in Deep Deuce. He didn't know the family was already considering such an expansion of their own.
In fact, competition by downtown Oklahoma City developers and property owners was fierce for doing a deal with Native Roots Market.
“We had a lot of offers,” Runkle said. “We had four or five offers altogether. There are minor technicalities in the positing of the building. They were all great locations and candidates, but there are a lot of particulars in that area of Oklahoma City you have to be aware of.”