Michael Overall: How Froug Department Store Helped Suburban Tulsa Grow | Local News

One Friday in late October 1904, pedestrians stopped to admire the newly installed stone cornice atop the Froug Building, which was entering the final stages of construction at 116 S. Main St.

“Many favorable comments were heard,” according to a brief report by the Tulsa Democrat newspaper at the time. But the Froug building probably only looked impressive by the rugged standards of a border town.

One of the first two-story brick structures in Tulsa, it was built by Abraham Froug, who had closed a chain of “necessities stores” across Indian Territory to move into real estate development. Instead of opening his own store, he rented space from other retailers, including Palace Clothiers. Later it became the first home of the Renberg department store.

It was Abraham’s son, Mike, who opened the famous Froug’s department store in February 1929, when he rented two floors in the Alexander Building at 315 S. Main St.

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As other stores sank during the Great Depression, Froug’s doubled in size and became one of downtown Tulsa’s most popular shopping destinations. By the mid-1940s, the store took up the entire Alexander Building, with more than 78,000 square feet, according to Tulsa World records.

In 1955, however, Froug’s did something no downtown department store had done before in Tulsa: it opened a suburban location.

The second store was located at the Eastgate Shopping Center near Admiral Place and Memorial Road, just down the street from the Admiral Twin Drive-in. And a third Froug’s opened two years later at the Northland Shopping Center.

It wasn’t exactly the birth of suburban retail. Utica Square, Tulsa’s first suburban mall, opened in 1952, while Whittier Square, Cherry Street, and Brookside had all been described as “suburban” shopping districts long before that.

But Froug’s has changed the perception of suburban commerce. It had always been about convenience, while Tulsans always went downtown for “serious shopping.” By now, suburban Tulsa had an air of respectability.

Froug eventually built a chain with 17 locations across the state, according to Tulsa World reader Phil Goldfarb, who is married to Mike Froug’s granddaughter and who contributed some of the research for this report.

“Urban renewal” efforts in the 1970s demolished both the original two-story Froug Building near Second and Main and the eight-story Alexander Building, while Froug’s downtown store survived for some time. longer in a smaller location on the corner of Third and Main.

Texas investors took over the company in 1980 and closed several struggling stores, unable to compete with larger, newer competitors. And the entire chain went out of business five years later, ultimately falling victim to the suburban buying trends it helped start.

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