Walker’s Department Store Co., Claremore, Oklahoma, “one of the large, comprehensive, and successful department stores of Northern Oklahoma” [Claremore Messenger,1-23-1914],
was ready for expansion. A 70x135’ floor space plan, drawn by local architect J.W. Roberts for Walker’s lot at 413 W. Will Rogers Boulevard, boasted a two-story brick structure of fire proof construction with reinforced concrete floors and roof holding three skylights. To the west stood a substantial brick business house; the two-story Campbell building lay to the east. Standing stately in their midst, the Walker building conjoined the two by 1916 [CM,4-9-1920; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Claremore 1916, Sheet 3].
Dr. Kaho, dentist; H. Tom Kight, C.B., and P. Werner Holtzendorff, attorneys; doctors F.A. Anderson and W.F. Hays; chiropractor Effie DeVine, and realtor W.E. Sunday eventually moved their businesses into the second floor of the Walker building.
March 16, 1916, The Claremore Progress bragged, “The Walker Department Store… is a credit to a town ten times the size of Claremore. Everything is modern and up-to-date.” Walker’s Department Store had “the goods the people wanted and they came from miles around.” Claremore was “justly proud of this fine store,” and confirmed it drew “trade to the city” [CM,1-9-1920].
Not immune to adversity, July 22, 1920, The Claremore Progress exclaimed, “considerable excitement was occasioned… when Abe Matthews, new driver, lost control of his Studebaker and drove the machine through two plate glass windows at the Walker Department Store. Mr. Matthews started the car at the curb in front of the store in low gear, and it climbed onto the sidewalk and on into the window before he could get it out of gear or get it stopped.”
An intriguing feature of Walker’s was its Bargain Basement where one could buy Valentines, “All Kinds,” in February and “Easter Chicks, Rabbits, and Egg Dyes” in March. Toys sold for less there becoming “a great place for the Economical Buyer.” [CM,2-7-1919; CP,2-3,3-3&8-11-1921; CP,12-21-1922].
For advertising in 1922, and for years thereafter, Walker’s Department Store issued “a calendar, containing a (daily) quotation from the Bible” [CP,2-2-1922]. And who could neglect to purchase their Easter clothes from Walker’s Department Store, “Beautiful Tailored Suits, Spring Coats, Silk Dresses, Separate Skirts, and Fancy Silk Waists ready to step right into” [CM,4-2-1915].
Yet, the ever popular Walker’s Department Store faded away. Current long-time Claremore residents remember the building as Chastain’s or Anthony’s.
Anthony’s had a fascinating transport system that carried the money paid, for a first-floor purchase, to a second floor cashier. Change would return to the purchaser by the same unique conveyance. Also fondly remembered are the parallel squeaky wooden stairs that ascend to the mezzanine level and the descending squeaky stairs that led to the bargain basement.
Chelsea Mize, the proud owner of the former Walker/Chastain/Anthony’s department store building, purchased the building from Ken and Peggy Combs in 2013. Chelsea’s prosperous business, the Cranberry Merchant Antique Mall, is housed therein. The spacious, artistically decorated display windows and the aforementioned wide squeaky stairways add significant historic nostalgia to one’s shopping experience there. As in past generations, the vintage goods people want are available at the store, and people come from miles around Claremore to stop and shop at Cranberry Merchant. As was true in the past, Claremore is “justly proud of this fine store,” as it continues “to draw trade to the city” [CM,1-9-1920].
If you long to experience a little Claremore history first-hand, just walk into the Cranberry Merchant. With just a touch of imagination you can catch a glimpse of Claremore’s rich and enduring mercantile past.