4.16.21 – The Oklahoman
Sometimes, things just seem to come together, even if it’s later than expected.
Lisa McPherson, her husband Mark McPherson and their family thought things were all coming together in 2018 when they decided Lisa should follow her lifelong dream to open a retail store of her own.
They found a building within Chickasha’s central business district that once had been a furniture store as a good spot to locate her gifts and home goods business, Perrefitte.
It took some time for them to acquire the 8,000 square-foot property located on the east side of South 4th Street, the town’s main north-south route. And it took some more time to meet renovation standards required by their use of historic tax credits along with other sources of financing (including city grant funds) to restore the building to usability.
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As for COVID-19? She hadn’t given that much thought, believing that it wouldn’t create much of an issue in Oklahoma.
The pandemic, however, did cause the family to put its buildout of Perrefitte’s space on hold for nearly two months, delaying its opening until September.
“I would hear about pandemics as part of my in-service training as a teacher, but I just didn’t believe it would actually happen and that this world literally shut down,” she said.
Ultimately, the family forged ahead.
“We stepped out on faith, hoping this wouldn’t last forever.”
She wasn’t alone.
Other entrepreneurs around the world with dreams of their own did the same, choosing to pursue business dreams in spite of the global pandemic. Some of those entrepreneurs, including Lisa McPherson, fought through the difficult circumstances here in Oklahoma.
Elijah Vick, who opened Brew Brother in Oklahoma City in October, found himself needing to adapt to a new reality presented by the virus as it swept through the state.
And the illness-caused shutdown only strengthened Paige Mitchell’s dream to open a co-working space in downtown Oklahoma City, where both busy working parents and their kids could be cared for.
McPherson said the name of her shop in Chickasha, Perrefitte (pronounced “pair of feet”) is taken from the name of a village in Switzerland that was home to her family’s ancestors before they emigrated to the United States.
The shop’s name seemed fitting, she said, because “that is how we got to this little town in Oklahoma — our ancestors chose it.”
McPherson said she had wanted to open her own home and gifts store throughout her adult life as she raised her daughters, Faith and Ivy.
As her children grew, she taught an adjunct literature course at The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, then later taught adult education courses to area women who were receiving public assistance.
Once her daughters were grown and going out on their own, McPherson said she constantly began thinking about pursuing her dream to have a store of her own.
“It just seemed like the right time for me to step out on my own. When I talked to Mark about it, he agreed, observing that ‘You have waited a long time.”
While the building they chose was considered by some to be an eyesore in need a considerable amount of work, it had potential.
A historic structure designation from the city made it possible for the McPhersons to tap local and state/federal assistance using historic tax credits for help.
They closed their deal to buy the building in June 2019, with renovations beginning a few months later.
In March 2020, CMS Willowbrook was building out Perrefitte’s 1,700 square-foot space inside the larger building as the McPhersons worked to lease out the remainder to other tenants.
Normal, trying-something-new nerves were affecting Lisa McPherson, she admits today.
“When it was really time to open it, I got pretty skittish.”
Then, once COVID-19 surfaced in Oklahoma, those plans were temporarily shelved.
“I had already been to market to order what I was needing to open Perrefitte,” she said. “But when everything was going crazy, I asked those vendors to delay those shipments while we put the construction on hold. Later, I had difficulties in finding what I wanted because of supply chain disruptions.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account
Perrefitte carries various types of gifts involving birthdays, weddings and babies. It also carries clothing, perfumes, colognes and various types of other gifts appropriate for home settings.
Her daughters provide lots of input on what Perrefitte sells, McPherson remarked.
“They definitely were instrumental in moving me along in the process,” she said.
McPherson said she and Mark are moving forward once again with plans to fill the building’s remaining space with other tenants.
A coffee shop will open in one part of the building, and McPherson hopes they can land a restaurant that would move into the remainder.
Stillwater native Elijah Vick kept himself busy during the years leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The union audio and lighting engineer, who had been living in North Carolina, relocated from to the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington to take a job in 2018.
While there, he spent a lot of time in a coffee shop during down periods as he looked for work opportunities between jobs and noticed the shop was getting lots of requests for deliveries – something it didn’t provide.
He realized he had an opportunity to fill a niche. After discussing it with the shop’s owner, he created a delivery service for the business.
Later, he returned to Oklahoma, intending to use his native state as a home-base for taking construction- or event-related jobs involving entertainment venues across the country.
But Brew Brother remained on his mind.
Vick said the delivery business’ early success got him to thinking about opening a shop of his own, and the place he spotted – a piece of Oklahoma City’s oldest surviving 1930s era Route 66 motel – looked to be a location that could work.
Owl Court, at 742 W Britton, had been built between 1928 and 1931, shortly after the corner of Classen and Britton was named a Route 66 bypass around Oklahoma City. Eventually, a cafe and gas station were added as part of the operation.
In recent years, the ownership group in charge of the property remodeled the property to provide some office space or retail, but felt Owl Court could also be a great coffee shop location.
And that’s what Vick brought to the space with Brew Brother Coffee.
Vick describes that building his shop is in as being the size of a “nook of a nook” (about 225 square feet).
Still, the A-frame shaped structure provides him with enough space for his sinks, a utility closet, a refrigerator, his stock of coffee, spices, teas and snacks and his all-important espresso machine.
Vick takes orders through a window on the building’s front, with walk-up patrons enjoying their drinks using seating that is supplied in the development’s outdoor plaza.
Vick said he entered into a deal with the ownership team to put Brew Brother Coffee into the space long before COVID-19 was a concern, and was deep into working on renovating the space when COVID forced the local economy to a near standstill.
While the crisis prompted Vick to bring in additional partners into his business before opening the business in October, it created new opportunities to solidly establish a future customer base for Brew Brother Coffee after things returned to normal, Vick said.
In particular, harried doctors, nurses and support staff at area hospitals who didn’t have time to run to coffee shops still needed their caffeine, he observed.
“I marketed our coffee and our delivery service to them, and they supported it enthusiastically,” Vick said. “That really made a huge difference for us, especially early on.”
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Vick aggressively marketed gift packs of coffee, cups and Brew Brother/Owl Court T-shirts to both walk-up and online consumers during slow times to help make ends meet.
“That proved to be a real life-saver for us while things were shut down,” he said.
Vick isn’t sure what the future holds for Brew Brother Coffee or the economy, but remains confident the business can weather whatever comes.
For example, he is planning a Beats + Coffee hip hop festival on July 23 that will be held both live at Owl Court’s plaza and online for its patrons.
“We had COVID-19, then that awful ice storm that left us without power for weeks. Then, there was this really cold blast that we had in February. We were able to get through those,” Vick said, while making an espresso.
“The future will be what it will be.”
Good idea becomes better
Before the pandemic, Mitchell came up with her idea to create a combination co-working and child care facility that she calls Recess OKC as a way to fill a need in her own life.
As a busy, 30-year-old mother of two boys who runs an online business, she said she absolutely wanted to spend time with her boys. But, she also needed time where she could concentrate on work in a professional environment outside the home.
The perfect place, she decided in October 2019, would be somewhere parents could concentrate on their jobs professionally while their children were in the same building having fun playing or learning through games — with appropriate supervision.
“I just wanted to provide a space for people to be able to focus,” Mitchell said. “I know I was feeling very guilty about having my laptop up while I’m playing with my kids at the same time. I just wanted some balance.”
She feels her space allows parents to have the best of both worlds — time with their kids and a successful career as well.
Mitchell said she only saw that need for her and other parents intensify when COVID-19 closed offices across the city.
“When the pandemic happened, I did get a little scared. I was thinking do we move forward? Because no one’s working together — we’re all working from home and separated,” Mitchell said.
“It was scary, but all I kept thinking about is daycares are still open and there are essential workers who still have to work,” Mitchell said. “I felt like this was still necessary in this season, so we just moved forward. Family members helped me get started. We just kind of jumped out on faith.”
Recess OKC (whose motto is “Where parents work and kids play”) includes five private offices for rental, an open space where people may work, a kitchen and lounge, a conference room, a virtual learning room for older kids, laptops on counters available for working opportunities and plenty for younger kids (ages 6-months through 5 years) to enjoy, including a games-filled nursery.
Mitchell said it’s important to note that Recess OKC, at 9 NE 9, does not offer full-time child care. Its staff only cares for children whose parents are using the on-site co-working spaces.
However, children aren’t mandatory, she emphasized.
“Any individual can book with us.”