Nestled between the Armory Municipal Center and the Cherokee National Peace Pavilion along the little stream, Town Creek Mercantile set up shop last month in what was once the Phoenix Livery. The building has stood as a part of the Tahlequah community since the end of the 19th Century.
John Wilson once owned the building, and operated a stagecoach line between Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Muskogee. Locals used the building to keep their horses before automobiles made their way to Tahlequah.
Store owner Amber Forrest isn’t exactly sure when the building opened, but she said it was sometime in the 1800s. Since then, the building has also been used as the Capitol Lounge, Tahlequah’s first bus station, and Able Copy Shop & Supply.
The building had stood vacant for about 13 years until Forrest approached the owner, who offered her a lease for the shop. Since then, Forrest has worked to improve the building to turn it into an antique store. She is working with local historians to understand how the building was used to better tell that story.
Upon entering the building, shoppers notice gold-colored mailboxes behind the cash register, which were installed when the building was Able Copy Shop & Supply. The mailboxes were used for locals, and especially NSU students who needed somewhere to receive their mail. This winter, children will be able to use those boxes to send letters to Santa. Forrest said Santa plans to reply to kids who take the time to write him a letter.
“We’re going to make a timeline up there above the mailboxes,” said Cheryl Brashier, a local artist who works and sells at Town Creek Mercantile.
On the north side of the building stands a brick wall, which is original to the livery stable. Windows are still visible where horses stuck their heads outside to take in fresh air.
“It has withstood the weather after all of these years. The outside walls were made different. It’s not a regular cement mixture. That’s how it’s been able to stand the test of time. It’s the original walls on the outside,” said Forrest.
The livery played an important role in Tahlequah’s history after the 1895 fire, which started at a different livery stable in town.
“What happened is that Tahlequah didn’t have a fire station in the 1800s. One of the other livery stations caught fire, which caused part of Tahlequah to catch fire,” said Forrest.
She explained that when the two other liveries burned to the ground, Tahlequah depended on the Phoenix Livery to accommodate the city’s transportation needs.
They are working to recover a front door that was used in the early 1900s.
“There is old wood up there that is from the early 1900s. We’re going in and taking it out, and we’ll take the wood and put the timeline on it. The original door of the Phoenix is in the rafters. We’ll take it down and reassemble it and put it in the store,” said Forrest.
Forrest and Brashier, among others, have been at work, painting walls, rewiring lights, and making modifications to accommodate the 20 vendors that now make up the space. Vendors sell antiques, as well as new items.
In the store’s main room are displayed decorative items. This time of year, pumpkins and fall decorations adorn the walls, but they are already decking their halls for Christmas.
Toward the back of the store, they turned one door into a “Guys Room.” Brashier wanted to turn the space into a trove of objects that are rusty, metal, or anything industrial. The room features wood braces, fishing gear, drills, fenders, oil cans, tools, and other items, many of which have been repurposed into artwork.
The ladies room also features artwork, but is primarily where vendors sell clothing and accessories.
Check it out
On Thursday, Oct. 21, Town Creek Mercantile is inviting one of its vendors, Stacy Brown, to host a workshop on how to make fabric pumpkins. All materials will be provided. For more information, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/towncreekmercantile.