Built using repurposed oceanic shipping containers, The Boxyard in downtown Tulsa is a small, lively, eclectic village of shops, sweets, service providers, dining destinations and retail outlets.
Tulsa is one of those large towns that doubles as a small city. It has everything to offer, yet it’s also very accessible. And that sounds a little bit like one of Tulsa’s newest retail developments, The Boxyard.
Located at the corner of Third Street and Frankfort Avenue, The Boxyard is a small, lively, eclectic village of shops and retail outlets, including a restaurant, an ice cream microcreamery, a comic book store, a coffee shop, a bank, and lots of other fantastic boutiques. Every establishment in The Boxyard is located inside a repurposed oceanic shipping container once used to transport cargo overseas.
“Most of these shipping containers have been bouncing around the ocean for eight or nine years. And they come to a point where the shippers just retire them out of the fleet and sell them,” says Casey Stowe, developer and owner of The Boxyard along with his principal business partner at Nelson+Stowe Development, Elliot Nelson.
Stowe and Nelson were initially inspired with the design concept after Stowe observed a similar project in London, while attending the 2012 Olympics. Out of that experience and a desire to merge both small business growth in downtown Tulsa with creative, sustainable, eco-friendly construction techniques, The Boxyard was born.
Working closely with local organizations like the Ross Group and the City of Tulsa, Stowe and Nelson rapidly got The Boxyard from vision to reality. Cisco Containers, in particular, was instrumental in figuring out how to best reuse the containers — nearly 40 in total — without wasting materials.
“We really tried to have as little waste as possible when we were doing it,” says Stowe. Even the original container doors, which were replaced by traditional glass shop doors, were utilized to build planters and the hand rails for the staircase to the second floor.
Opening to the public in December 2016, The Boxyard has seen steady growth, drawing neighborhood locals with the Blue Sky Bank, tonsorial (a barber shop), and Downtown Dry Cleaners conveniently located there. In spite of growing pains in the area — such as parking issues, street construction, and other positive but challenging aspects of one of Tulsa’s fastest developing areas — The Boxyard has blossomed into a cornerstone for the east side of downtown Tulsa.
What will you find when you visit? The question is more like, what won’t you find? The Boxyard offers many shops you won’t find anywhere else in Green Country. Stowe himself is a fan of supporting local businesses — he’s a member of the board of the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation, which helps fund small businesses. And he was committed from the start to make The Boxyard a reflection of that.
And they are. The businesses at The Boxyard share the “think small, buy local” mentality that has helped downtown Tulsa’s revitalization in recent years. The shop owners are very much locally minded. Many of the stores have banded together at times to donate a portion of profits to worthy causes such as the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.
“We’ve got service businesses, and those have really done well,” says Stowe. “And then we’ve got traditional mercantile shops. It’s a little bit of everything.”
For instance, there’s The STEMcell Science Shop, which features an ever-changing mix of old science book classics, science kits, star chart glass tumblers and other brainy gifts. There are fashion boutiques like Modern Mess and Beau & Arrow, where you can ride the edge of style and comfort and play dress up.
“The reception has been fantastic,” says Stowe. “People are so complimentary of The Boxyard because it is a unique structure, and they’re also complimentary of the shops. The tenants we have care about what they sell. These are quality products.”
There are great places to get a bite to eat too, whether you’re shopping with friends and want a break, or you just want to hang out someplace fun. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the candy shop Sweet Boutique or stop in at the ever-popular Rose Rock Microcreamery, a one-of-a-kind ice cream shop that makes all its amazing flavors in-house.
You can also grab coffee and a Tulsa-themed gift at Dwelling Spaces. Or snag a meal at one of The Boxyard’s newest additions, the authentic Mexican restaurant, Sabores. With an expansive menu, Sabores offers traditional chicken, steak or shrimp fajitas, as well as unique dishes like the spiced salmon with Mexican style risotto and a tasty sundried tomato jalapeno sauce.
“I don’t think a day goes by without somebody coming up to me and telling me how good that place is,” says Stowe.
You can catch live music occasionally on the second floor patio in the evenings and on weekends. Wedding pictures and prom pictures have been taken there too, since the backdrop of The Boxyard has such an amazing view of Tulsa, especially at sunset. Couples have even gotten engaged on the second-floor patio.
The Boxyard stays open late during First Friday Art Crawls, as well as during events such as the Blue Dome Festival and Tulsa Tough. And The Boxyard holds special events too, says Stowe, such as pop-up shops on the weekends, and a pet adoption event a few times a year.
In fact, The Boxyard is a great place to bring your dog, with water bowls available, and a pet-friendly atmosphere. The only rule? Your dog needs to be on a leash.
“One of the great things about going to The Boxyard is that it’s an event in itself,” says Stowe. “There’s nothing else out there like it. It’s a lot of fun.”
502 E. 3rd St. | Tulsa
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