Going to Sipes was a Saturday afternoon tradition for my dad and I. We would leave around 10:00 a.m. (shopping list -written by Mom- in hand) and go to his office which was down around 13th and Boulder in a renovated house (later taken out by the expressway). I would doodle around amusing myself on some poor secretary's typewriter while he worked. Then we would head over to Ike's Chili Parlor (the last location downtown at 7th and Boston) for 3-way "Spi-get Special" (this was how they pronounced spaghetti and chili with beans and cheese) and a coke served in a paper cone cup in a metal holder. It was always interesting to sit at the counter and just watch the people working or watch Ollie ring up people at the register by the door. Then off we would go to Sipes for the weeks groceries.
My parents' first house was over by the fairgrounds, so the 27th and Harvard location was where we went, even after we moved way out south. Dad occasionally went to the Sipes at 61st and Yale when it opened but always preferred the Harvard location. I think it was because he knew the butcher there on a first-name basis. When we would reach the meat department, Dad would give me a dime and I would head over to the Coke machine and get a chocolate Yoohoo and wait.
If it was summertime, there would be much discussion about loin back ribs, pork chops and steaks for cooking on the Hasty Bake. If it was winter time, Dad had to choose the right piece of meat and right amount of suet for his chili and have it ground 2-3 times. I'm sure no Tulsa child will ever forget the cartoon/movie "hut" that children were sent to to wait while groceries were being sacked and paid for. Getting a penny to buy a piece of bubble gum from the machine and watching a cartoon for 10 minutes was a great way to end our weekly excursion. My parent's were very loyal Sipes customers. Mom even did some advertising modeling for them in the 1950's.
Sipes Success Story
Customer service and personal check cashing were just two of the many ways Sipes stayed in business, especially during the Great Depression. In the early 30's there were seven Sipes "self-serving stores" in Tulsa: 11th & Columbia, Peoria just south of 15th Street, 11th & Cheyenne, 15th & Trenton, Edison & Denver, 6th & Zunis, and in the former Warehouse Market building at 11th & Elgin.
These were small stores without much parking needed since few automobiles were on the streets back then. After WWII, only 2 of those stores were paying operations. In 1943 son LeRoy Sipes became general manager and bought a location at 15th & Quaker for a larger, more up-to-date super-market. (This building still stands and is a restaurant).
The 10,000 sq ft facility was the first of five Sipes stores built on the grand scale customers were beginning to demand and included a drug store.
In 1945, the Sipes chain won national recognition for modern supermarket design, including departmentalization of produce and conveyor belt checkout stands. Sipes also received 12 advertising excellence awards from Woman's Day and McCall's magazines.
Besides the Harvard location (now a Dollar Store), large stores were opened in Holliday Hills (61st & Yale), Eastgate (Admiral & Memorial) and 32nd & Memorial (now Drysdales).
Hale-Halsell company acquired Sipes Food Markets in 1955 which probably helped the chain outlast many others for decades. In the early 1970's there were plans to open a store on the northwest corner of 71st & Memorial that fell through. It was supposed to look like this:
One by one the stores closed with the 61st & Yale location being the last, closing in 1992.