Do You Remember OTASCO?

Three Jewish Lithuanian immigrant brothers, Sam (1898–1939), Maurice (1891–1970), and Herman (1889–1971) Sanditen opened the first Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company (OTASCO) in Okmulgee in 1918. The store included a gas pump and sold used tires and auto accessories. 

The 1918 Polk’s Oklahoma State Gazetteer and Business Directory listed the operation as the Oklahoma Salvage and Supply Company. By 1922 the fledgling operation added a location in  Henryetta. In 1925 the headquarters of the expanding company moved to Tulsa. The brothers based their business model on selling products on credit.

The chain continued to grow, opening its first Oklahoma City store in 1929. By 1936 thirty-four stores sold $250,000 in merchandise. The company diversified its inventory to items such as radios, appliances, and vacuum cleaners. Of the thirty-four outlets, nineteen were associated stores owned by store managers, who contracted with OTASCO for all of the merchandise, the name, and the advertising. By 1943 there were eighty-three stores in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri, including Sapulpa. Forty of these were associate outlets.

OTASCO sign. Photo from Mecum Auction Site.

Before the age of the big box stores, OTASCO offered “one-stop shopping” in Sapulpa. They sold housewares, appliances, guns, fishing tackle, electronics. bicycles, tricycles, wagons, auto accessories such as tires batteries, seat covers, and other products too numerous to mention. 

My attraction to the store as a young child was the large stock of toys during the Christmas season. Beginning in late October or early November, the employees would take several rows of houseware items off the shelves and replace them with toys and games of every description. The store would also have shiny new “Flying O” bicycles on display, as well as sleds. As a matter of fact, my first sled came from OTASCO.

 I loved to “window shop” the downtown shops during the Yule season, and OTASCO was my first stop. I would gaze longingly at the Lionel train sets and the Gilbert chemistry sets. When I was nine I really wanted a Flying O bicycle. It had twin headlights and rocket-shaped tanks on either side of the frame. My parents wound up buying me a Huffy bicycle for Christmas, which was identical to the one at OTASCO.

A Vintage OTASCO Christmas catalog. Photo from worthpoint.com

As I grew older, I purchased items at OTASCO since it was only a block from my father’s store, and they had everything I wanted in one location. I started buying fishing tackle there because of the low prices. I remember buying a small “can” of 100 Pfluger fishing hooks for under 50 cents. I bought my first Zebco “202” fishing reel and my first Coleman gas lantern there. 

I bought bicycle inner tubes, tires, and patch kits at OTASCO. I paid a paltry thirty-nine cents for a Camel tire repair kit. It came in a cardboard cylinder with a metal top that functioned as a scraper to roughen the rubber before applying the glue.

OTASCO sold records, record players, and record accessories. I bought “knockoff” 45s, which were current songs performed by someone other than the original artists, for half the price as the original labels. Surprisingly the quality seemed decent since, at the time, I was not a musical “connoisseur.” 

OTASCO featured a garage bay facing Water Street, where you could pull in and buy tires., batteries, shocks, and seat covers. Elmer Walker was the “mechanic” and did an admirable job of installing front seat covers in my 1957 Chevy station wagon. He could also fix a flat faster than anyone I had ever seen.

Several of my friends bought Montclair radios and record players, and their parents bought Montclair televisions. My father and I serviced a number of these house brand consumer electronics.

The only other employees I remember working there were Ernie Schlecht and Charles Hasley. If memory serves me correctly, Schlecht was the store manager and Hasley was a salesman.

OTASCO moved to The Rock Creek Shopping Center in the 1970s, and in 1988 the parent company filed bankruptcy. A few franchised locations remained for several years.

I miss the personalized service and the catchy radio ads that OTASCO ran on a regular basis, like this one that ended with the sound of a mechanical cash register and this slogan: “Thank you, here’s your change. Remember, you always save at your friendly Oklahoma Tire And Supply Store; Your Home Of Better Values.”

But alas, Walmart and other big-box retailers spelled the end for many Oklahoma-based chains such as OTASCO and TG&Y.

https://agents.farmers.com/ok/sapulpa/steve-grogan
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Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler is a contributing writer for Sapulpa Times.
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