Everything that fits is at Steve’s Sundry in Tulsa

May 24, 2007

steve5.JPGOn the outside, Steve’s Sundry, Books & Magazines on South Harvard Avenue in Tulsa’s midtown neighborhood, doesn’t look like much. But just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, don’t write off Steve’s because of its modest curb appeal and its location in an aging strip mall.

Step inside, and you quickly discover why, in an age of Amazon.com, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, locals love this quirky, 60-year-old independent bookstore.

It’s called Steve’s Sundry, Books & magazines, so it’s best to take things one by one.  

First, the sundries. Steve’s stocks all kinds of items you wouldn’t expect to find in a bookstore, including denture powder and a variety of products for the feet.  “As long as it’s legal and our customers want it, we’ll sell find it and sell it,” says Joanie Stephenson, the wife of Steve Jr., the founder’s son. The foot-care products — some of them hard to get — are there, Joanie says, because someone once asked for them and Steve’s obliged. Then area podiatrists found out and began specifically referring customers to the store.

Also in the sundry category, the old-fashioned soda fountain in the back of the store, which sersteve1.JPGves shakes and simple sandwiches all day.  Hence the store’s motto: “Whether it’s Shakes or Shakespeare, Steve’s is the Place.”  

“I swing by probably once every couple of weeks,” says 29-year-old Brian Wayland (left), a Tulsa social worker, who was having a shake blended up by Darren Whiteside, a Steve’s employee, when the Route 66 Team visited.

“They make a better shake than Braum’s (a regional ice cream chain) and there’s hardly ever a line.”  

The books lean heavily toward local authors, and books on Oklahoma history, and Steve’s hosts signings weekly for these niche authors. “Shoot,” Joanie says, “if somebody takes the time and the blood, sweat and tears to write a book, we’re happy to sponsor an author event.” 

That support for struggling authors has earned Steve’s the love of some not-so-struggling scribes, including Elmore Leonard, David Baldacci and Garrison Keillor, who have all made a point of doing signings here when they’re in Tulsa. 

And the magazines? Steve’s carries over 4,000 titles, giving it — according to Joanie — the best selection in Tulsa. 

All photos taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 22 and May 23, 2007

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