Do You Remember…Bayouth’s Department Store?
Read about the family that created a legacy and “store the city could be proud of.”
Sol Bayouth, the patriarch of the Bayouth family, was a young Lebanese immigrant, who, in 1903, set out from Wichita, Kansas, to make his way to Oklahoma Territory. He had a peddler’s pack strapped to his back as he walked the dusty and dangerous trails. Within seven months of arriving in Oklahoma Territory, he managed to save enough to buy a team and wagon. Thus, the Bayouth retail empire was born. In 1916, Sol Bayouth opened a brick and mortar store in Collinsville.
Sol’s son, Eddie Bayouth, Sr., was born in 1921, in Collinsville, Oklahoma. He graduated from Collinsville High School in 1940. In 1943, shortly after marrying his high school sweetheart, Mildred Oaks, Eddie Bayouth went into the Army. After he was discharged in 1945, he went to work for his brother, Bus, at his store in Collinsville. Eddie later went into partnership with his father, Sol, and his other brother, Kay.
In 1946, Eddie told his father he wanted his own store, so Sol and his son, Eddie, set out to find a town in which to locate. They went to Claremore, Pryor, Coweta, and Bixby, but did not find what they were looking for. One day, they heard of a store for sale in Sapulpa. It was a dry goods store owned by G. R. Mayes. Sol and Eddie made Mr. Mayes an offer, which was immediately accepted, and the next day Eddie Bayouth had his own business, Bayouth’s Department Store.
In 1953, Eddie and his wife, Mildred, opened a shoe store on Main Street, operated by Mildred.
On June 2, 1958, Bayouth’s Department Store relocated to 205-207 East Dewey. Mildred continued to operate Eddie’s Self-Service Shoe Store in the old location of Bayouth’s Department Store.
The Sapulpa Daily Herald ran a full-page story on the new store and the Bayouth family. The headline read, “A Store The City Can Be Proud Of.” It went into great detail about the remodeling efforts, such as lowered, acoustic tile ceilings, scientifically-designed windows, bright, linear fluorescent lighting, and “ winter and summer air-conditioning. The article went on to say that thousands of dollars of new merchandise were brought in for the Grand Opening. Bayouth stated that the cost of the move and remodeling was $20,000. In today’s money, that would be $177, 000!
Sons, Larry and Eddie, Jr. later joined Eddie, Sr. in operating the department store. Eddie, Jr. left the department store to open his own store, Bayouth’s Women’s Wear. Eddie, Sr. purchased the Nancy Kay Shoppe in 1976. Daughter, Jean Ann Thompson operated and eventually purchased the store from her father. Upon Eddie, Sr.’s retirement, Larry purchased the department store, which he transitioned to Bayouth’s Men’s Wear. Larry operated the store until its closing in 1994.
Bayouth’s Department Store sold name brands such as Levi’s Jeans, Wrangler Jeans, Lee Jeans, and Arrow Shirts. From 1970 until 1998, Bayouth’s Department Store was the chosen distributor for all uniforms and accessories. Even in the ‘60s, I remember buying my Cub Scout uniforms and accessories, such as the Pinewood Derby car kits there. It should be noted that although the store closed in 1994, Larry continued to sell letter jackets and BSA uniforms at his insurance agency during those four years.
Eddie Bayouth, Sr. immersed himself in civic responsibilities. He joined the Sapulpa Jaycees and in 1954 earned the Distinguished Service Award. He transferred his membership in the Kiwanis from Collinsville and served as President in 1956. He was a member of the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce and served as Treasurer and a Board Member. He was a member of the Sapulpa Elks Lodge. He served on the Board of Directors at Valley Hope, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility. After decades of support for scouting, Eddie Bayouth, Sr. was awarded an Honorary Award by the BSA, for “Outstanding Service to the Boy Scouts of America.” Mr. Bayouth also sponsored the FFA of Sapulpa. Each year he gave away three pairs of boots to the champions of the Best Cow, Best Bull, and Best Lamb competitions.
The legacy of a “kind and compassionate man”
Eddie Bayouth, Sr. was a kind and compassionate man. Nothing exemplifies this more than the two stories told to me by his daughter, Jean Ann Thompson.
Ms. Thompson had gone to the Walgreens by her house in Tulsa to pick up a prescription for her father. One of the pharmacists heard her say she was picking a prescription for Eddie Bayouth. He turned to her and said, “That’s not the Eddie Bayouth in Sapulpa, is it?” She said, “Yes, he is my dad.”
He then told her that he was a Scoutmaster and every year he would take his troop of boys to Bayouth’s in Sapulpa to buy their uniforms. He said he would never forget that one year he had a young boy in his troop that only had only enough money to buy a shirt. The other boys were outfitted in full uniforms and gear. Her dad, Mr. Bayouth, outfitted the young lad in the same manner as the others. When Mr. Bayouth took the boy’s money, he told him it was exactly the right amount. Ms. Thompson said her dad had a passion for the Boy Scouts of America. However, she never expected to hear this story at a Walgreens in Tulsa.
Although completely blind in his elderly years, her father still wanted to visit the banks and other local businesses that he had strong ties to. One day, Ms. Thompson and her father were going up the steps of Security National Bank (First United) when a lady and her husband saw him and said, “Mr. Bayouth! Do you remember us?” The couple did not know Mr. Bayouth could not see. Her dad said, “Well, yes! Of course, I remember you!” Then she said, “Mr. Bayouth, when my husband and I were to be married 40 years ago, we had no money and my husband didn’t have a suit for our wedding. You gave him a new suit for the wedding, and we will never forget this.” Ms. Thompson said she was moved to tears and was so proud to be his daughter.
Sadly, Eddie Bayouth, Sr. passed away on June 30, 2012. Alas, another chapter in the rich and wonderful history of Sapulpa’s entrepreneurs drew to an end.
I wish to thank Rachel Whitney for providing a PDF of the Sapulpa Daily Herald, dated June 1, 1958, and Ms. Jean Ann Thompson, for her invaluable assistance.
About the Author
Long-time Sapulpa resident, Charles Betzler, followed his father, Charlie, into the radio and TV repair business. At age 9, he fixed his first broken radio and his first love is vintage audio equipment. In his 50 + years of technical work, graduation from OSUIT, and years of Continuing Education, Charles, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director of nearby city, designed the Emergency Operations Center, and the radio-activation system for the sirens. In his long career, he has repaired every type of consumer electronics from black-and-white TVs to the latest lap-top.