There’s nothing like announcing you are going out of business to bring customers to your door. Tami DeLozier at Luther’s Urban 66 found that out when she surprisingly announced she would close her gift shop on Main Street on February 22, 2020. Since then, sales have been good, so good that her revenue midway through February has topped all of January’s sales.
Customers have one more week to find half-off deals at the shop before Urban 66 closes the door, for now. DeLozier and her daughter, Angela Baustert, first opened in March 2017. The shop joined a growing number of businesses throughout our small town, and became known as a go-to stop for affordable and unique gifts for birthdays, showers, teachers or for yourself. She curated a unique inventory that featured items from many local artists selling everything from soap made from donkey milk to jewelry, purses, home goods and candles.
After a move from her original location on the west side of Main, Tami said the store didn’t have the same traffic and flow in the new location on the east side of the street. Still, she said she’d do it again, and hasn’t closed the door of being a shop owner again.
“We’ve grown to love Luther. We’re excited to move here. If I hadn’t had my store, we would have never fallen in love with the people here,” she said. Her husband, Joe, recently retired and the couple will now have time to put their Oklahoma City home on the market as their home north of Luther will soon be built by local builders.
Operating an independent retail shop is tough anywhere, especially with the convenience of online shopping. A look at tax payments from the Oklahoma Tax Commission to the town reflects that.
“It was harder than I thought it would be, not knowing what to buy. It was good when people would say, ‘could you carry this,’ I liked that aspect, and trying to have different and unique stuff,” said Tami. Another special touch from her store was the use gift bags for purchases, instead of retail bags, complete with tissue paper, giving the effect of a gift with every purchase. She said getting the word out about her shop was also difficult without a budget for advertising or marketing.
Retail stores and all businesses are important in any community. In addition to providing services to residents and a growing number of visitors to Luther, sales tax revenues fund the operation of the Town, as the main source of revenue. Whether it’s a trend or maybe a blip, Urban 66’s slowdown reflects an overall slump in Luther’s sales tax revenues.
According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, February sales tax receipts for Luther reflecting sales in December was $29,304 while the year before the town collected $32,517 in sales tax revenue. The month before, January 2020 sales taxes were $34,432 but in January 2019 the town collected $54,573.
Use taxes, or online sales, also show a dip over the last couple of months, with $9,500 distributed from OTC to Luther in February for December sales, compared to $11,200 in 2019.
Luther has a .03 sales tax rate, the lowest in the area. In neighboring Arcadia where the local sales rate is .04, the town collected more than Luther at $33,324 in February; and in Wellston, with a local sales tax rate of .04, February sales tax collections were also just more than $33,413. Both towns received an uptick compared to the same months in 2019.
For a comparison on what it’s like in the larger cities, Edmond had February sales tax collections of $6.2 million and Oklahoma City collected $38 million.
Tami said she looks forward to becoming more involved in the community after her shop closes but will miss the daily interactions with her customers and friends. Her experience will help in serving with the newly formed Deep Fork 66 district connecting businesses between Arcadia and Stroud to promote tourism and day trips to our neighbors in the cities.
“I’m sad. I enjoy talking and enjoy when people would come in and just talk. That’s how I got to know so many people,” she said. The DeLoziers will also have time to dream about whether to build another retail location on their lot on First Street between the old Josephine’s Cafe that closed last year and the Mercantile, and across the street from Luther Hardware. It’s good to have options, and dreams.
Urban 66’s last day open is Saturday, February 22. The shop will be open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm. Tami said after she packs up and with extra time to spend in Luther, she’s looking forward to volunteering for the Luther Pecan Festival, and other efforts, while visiting local restaurants and other shops.
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