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Behind Clothed Doors

The Market Store by East + West’s main focus may be premium men’s casual wear, but owner Ben Kilgore is focused on selling more of the city he loves, including family-owned farms.

Article
Gina Conroy
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
July 28, 2018

When Ben Kilgore, owner of The Market Store by East + West — a premium men’s casual wear shop located at The Boxyard in the heart of downtown Tulsa — talks about his businesses over the last 10 years, you can’t help but understand his heart for the city he loves and his commitment to serving the people of Tulsa.

“We want to be more than a men’s retail shop,” says Kilgore. “We want to sell people on Tulsa and what we love about living here.”

When Kilgore first got married, he and his wife, Noelle, wanted to build something that added value to Tulsa. That’s why they opened Shoe Gypsy on Cherry Street where they enjoyed being part of the Tulsa community of shop owners who were friends more than competition.

“Tulsa is small enough that if you’re brave enough to open a retail clothing store, people who have done it take note and champion you,” says Kilgore.

After several years in business, a move to Phoenix, Ariz., took them out of Tulsa, but they still managed to run the business for a while. “It was hard to be in two towns at once,” says Kilgore. So they ultimately closed the doors.

Ten years later and back in Tulsa, Kilgore has never lost sight of his vision to give back to the city he loves. Two years ago, when he read that a unique downtown shopping mall made entirely of shipping containers was opening featuring several women’s shops, he knew exactly what The Boxyard needed: a men’s retail store.

 The Market Store by East + West has brought in some home goods and grooming products at a more accessible price range, while still offering a micro-shop version of the full size East + West.
‍ The Market Store by East + West has brought in some home goods and grooming products at a more accessible price range, while still offering a micro-shop version of the full size East + West.

A big fan of East + West in St. Louis — a premium men’s store that carries unique contemporary casual products — Kilgore wanted to bring similar quality brands to Tulsa. So he contacted the owner, Brian Simpson, who had been one of Kilgore’s best Shoe Gypsy customers and asked to partner with him to bring a micro-shop version of his store to Tulsa.

“Brian’s wife grew up in Jenks and whenever they came to town, he would stop by the store,” says Kilgore. “We became friends. I’d even take him to my house and to my private stash of shoes. I’d let him shop out of my closet.”

Kilgore even consulted with Simpson on the original East + West, so it made sense to partner with someone he already knew.

“At the time I had a recording studio on Eighth Street and Boston Avenue, so one shipping container that had 320 square feet was a manageable investment,” says Kilgore. The idea of using old shipping containers and the way it was laid out in a courtyard appealed to Kilgore. He also loved the idea that The Boxyard was to be comprised of all local shops.

Today, Kilgore loves having his shop in the heart of downtown where there are plenty of restaurants and bars, but not much retail.

“The Boxyard feels like a family of local shop owners all helping each other out. We’ve become friends,” says Kilgore. “Sometimes when we close our shops, we’ll go over to Open Container and have drinks together. Doing retail is tough enough, but having a shop in The Boxyard makes it feel like you’re not alone.”

While Kilgore loves the products they offer customers, after a year in business he wanted to expand the offerings to better serve more of Tulsa.

Ben Kilgore, owner of The Market Store by East + West.
Ben Kilgore, owner of The Market Store by East + West.

“We loved who we were ­— a premium men’s store with some of the best brands in men’s casual wear in the world,” says Kilgore. “But we wanted everyone who walked into the store to feel that there was something there for them.”

In 2018, they decided to close their doors for a month to take some time with their newly adopted son and to reconcept the store to better serve The Boxyard customer.

Since reopening, The Market Store by East + West has brought in some home goods and grooming products at a more accessible price range, while still offering a micro-shop version of the full size East + West.

“We have a highly concentrated and curated selection, but we have access to a lot of clothes and products we don’t have the space for,” says Kilgore. If they don’t carry the size or specific product at The Boxyard, if it’s in the other stores, he can have it in Tulsa in two days. “Some of our unique brands are made by smaller, family-owned businesses and have never been in Tulsa.”

Popular brands include Norse Projects (functional work wear designed in Denmark), 3sixteen (denim and shirt outerwear), Rogue Territory (handmade denim), Reigning Champ (active and athletic wear), and Topo Designs (high-quality gear and clothing for the outdoors and everyday life).

To expand on the vision to serve the community, Kilgore plans on partnering with family-owned farms to bring fresh produce to his store for customers to purchase six days a week and to support local farms.

“These family-owned farms are in dire straits,” says Kilgore. “They depend on the once-a-week farmer’s markets, and they can’t thrive because people want the convenience of buying produce the day they are cooking.”

In September, Kilgore plans to partner with Prairie Creek Farms to bring a pig roast to the top deck. “We’ll use local chefs for the sides and all food will come from local farms,” he says.

Other plans for the shop include supporting other industries in town and collaborating with the four different Tulsa subcultures — beer, coffee, food and drink — and music by partnering local artisans during First Fridays and other times of the year.  

LOCATOR
The Market Store by East + West
The Boxyard | 502 E. 3rd St., Unit 9 | Tulsa
918-900-2216
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday: Noon-5 p.m.