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Oklahoma's oldest grocery, Crescent Market, set to close

The Crescent Market, 122 years old and the state's oldest grocery, is closing its doors later this month as it faces the onslaught of two corporate upscale supermarkets opening nearby.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: October 4, 2011

Parker guesses a lot of Crescent's customers live within the immediate two-mile radius.

“I worry about the elderly — they don't want to shop on May Avenue,” Parker said. “They love the ease of it, they can call in advance and have the food ready for them to pick up. They love the ready-made meals.”

Terry Sinclair was a customer for 30 years before she started making and selling soup and other meals sold on Pemberton's shelves.

“Crescent was very gracious about giving me more space, and I slowly got to build a clientele,” Sinclair said. “Everybody knows everybody here. It's just really sad.”

Sinclair, whose food also is sold at nearby Kamp's Meat Market, now has a commercial kitchen and is planning to open up her own storefront. In a bit of irony, Sinclair is one of several Crescent vendors contacted by Whole Foods to sell their goods in its first Oklahoma City store.

Leo Gulikers, a butcher at Crescent Market for the past 27 years, is uncertain what he will do next. It was Art L. Pemberton, Robert Pemberton's grandfather, who bought the market from prior owners in 1942 and later convinced Gulikers to pass on an opportunity to open his own butcher shop and work instead at Crescent.

“Mr. P is what we used to call him,” Gulikers said. “He kept coming into the store until '94. Then his son Art (Jr.) took over.”

Gulikers and fellow employees have fond emotions for the Pembertons, and said they always felt like they were a part of the family store.

A glance at the store's meat shop reveals the sort of operation that faded away from most groceries two decades ago — a place where trained, experienced butchers know their customers' preferences and can provide cuts usually only done by top chefs.

“Nobody cuts prime ribs like us, where you cut the fat and then tie it all together,” Gulikers said. “For Christmas, where are you going to get a crown pork roast and a crown lamb roast? We make a ton of those here. There are a few places that do that, but not many.”

For the past two years Pemberton has been courted by multiple developers to move his store downtown. He thinks a slim chance remains for him to reopen downtown, but if he does, he knows he'll have to start from scratch.

Parker is uncertain existing customers will follow such a move.

“This is a store that's always been here, and now that's changing,” Parker said. “And that's never easy.”

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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