Louis Fowler’s Pandemic Journal: Shopping Spree

I first wrote about Whittaker’s here, many years ago. It was a one-off piece for Christmas, one that I never really thought I’d revisit…and then I moved nearby the battered and broken-down grocery store. Within walking distance of a mile or so, this unexpected food oasis in an otherwise dried-up part of town has been a culinary lifesaver numerous times for me since.

Just don’t tell your more well-to-do friends where you got those questionable pork chops.

Since the Coronavirus has caused a run in more popular stores like Walmart and Homeland on items like toilet paper, bottled water and, soon enough, meat, it’s been Whittaker’s that has taken charge, a minority-driven shopping palace that has kept those much-needed items in stock, always at the rock-bottomest—sorry, Crest—of prices.

Thankfully, the innate fear of the impoverished that surround the area has managed to keep out the sickliest lot of Oklahoma City, allowing for the more food-stamped of us to shop with little angst of contracting Covid-19. Whether it be discounted boxes of tilapia endorsed by a football player or pre-made salads with very little brown-leafing for a buck, they’ve been there for those on a diseased budget.

Sure, there are hand-written signs all over, limiting toilet paper, bottles of Fabuloso and, oddly enough, large bags of masa, but every time I’ve been to Whittaker’s, there’s never been anyone giving the cashier guff, with everyone standing six feet apart and wearing their homemade masks, this shopper included.

As long as I live in this area, I think I’ll keep spending my cash at Whittaker’s. No joke.

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While many people are lamenting the closure of places like bars and restaurants, I’m more heartbroken over the independent convenience stores that are shutting their doors; the most recent loss is the Super Mart at 2600 N. Penn.

I was on one of my longer walks when I decided to stop in for a bottle of water. A small woman, wrangling kids and a large countertop display of cigars, was trying to get them loaded into her minivan. As I gave her an apprehensive hand, she told me they are now closed and will be for good.

That neighborhood corner store—possibly under different names, none of which I can remember—has been an area staple for, at least, thirty years, selling me crispitos in times of gluttony, lottery tickets in times of poverty and, until recently, water in times of great thirst.

Another small business dead and gone, thanks to the pandemic. Maybe their stimulus cash went to a Ruth’s Chris Steak House instead?

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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4 Responses


  1. I worry that small businesses, particularly those with a small profit margin, will ultimately have to choose between trying to follow guidelines or trying to stay in business. The cynical part of me thinks that reopening now has less to do with the economy and more to do with getting the state off the hook for support programs for small businesses and employees, but I hope I’m wrong.


  2. As Louis’ link points out, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse has felt the heat and is paying back its $20 million in government subsidies. It can easily afford to do so, as this article points out:

    https://www.businessinsider.com/ruths-chris-to-return-federal-loan-after-backlash-2020-4

    But how did they have the brass to apply for the money in the first place, especially since they are cutting their hourly workers off? Greed? Entitlement? Capitalism run amok?

    Whittaker’s sounds like a real asset to a non-elite segment of OKC, and you’ll never bump into Carol Hefner in there. May they live long and prosper.


  3. But, but, but …..our billionaire President assigned his billionaire Secretary of the Treasury to distribute billions of dollars in business bailouts pushed through by a millionaire Republican Senate leader who insisted on little regulations and no accountability and it didn’t get down to small businesses? I’m shocked, shocked!


  4. Thanks for giving them a shout out, this kind of place is one that needs to keep going!

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