Multiple investments give Sapulpa new businesses, downtown appeal

Business starts and optimism have been on the rise recently in Sapulpa.

Over the past several months, three new businesses have opened and several more are under construction. At the same time, investments made downtown and at attractions like Sapulpa’s Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum have sparked anticipation for continued growth and development in the town of about 22,000 just southwest of Tulsa.

“There’s a lot of possibilities in Sapulpa,” said Isaac Chandler, operations manager of the high-tech Waypoint Lounge, which opened in April. “We’re starting to see a lot of people put down roots here. They want to give the city a new image, make it feel more modern. “

Cindy Lawrence, director of the Sapulpa Main Street program, said four downtown buildings have changed hands so far this year, equal to all those sold last year.

“Any time you add new retail, it drives people downtown,” she said. “And the city is working hard to help us keep moving forward.”

More good news for supporters of Sapulpa’s downtown has been that contractors started groundwork recently on a second phase of a project to give the central core a new park, attractive gathering areas and pedestrian-friendly walkways. City leaders also are finalizing plans for similar improvements along Dewey Street through the center of downtown. The enhancements will include landmarks celebrating Dewey’s Route 66 heritage.

“More and more people now recognize that we have a lot of untapped, fertile ground,” said David Reed, principal of Reed Architecture and Interiors, which moved to downtown Sapulpa in 2020.

Reed has served as the project manager for the downtown master plan.

“Our city has long been one of the Tulsa area’s best-kept secrets. Now, investors are seeing our potential,” he said.

Downtown Sapulpa claims roughly 30 blocks of commercial buildings, most dating back to Oklahoma’s oil boom heyday. A National Historic District designation covers much of the business area.

“It provides a lot of growth opportunities, both now and in the future,” said Chad O’Roark, who recently opened Sugar Llamas, a gourmet donut, ice cream, and coffee shop. “We had been praying for a location where we could offer the community not just food but a comfortable gathering place. As soon as they unlocked this door and we walked in here, we knew this was it. This was exactly where we wanted to be.”

The 9,000-square-foot Waypoint Lounge is another example of how established structures can be upgraded to meet today’s high-tech needs. Renovations to the former auto service center have made for a colorful home for Waypoint’s 40 customer computers, 14 gaming consoles, giant main screen and multiple LED wall screens stationed around a restaurant and bar.

“You usually find these lounges in places like New York or Las Vegas,” said Chandler. “This is definitely unique for a small town like Sapulpa.”

Waypoint marks the Kante Group’s second Sapulpa business launch this year and the fifth in the last two years. On April 15, after decades of inactivity, the beautifully restored Tee Pee Drive-In opened just west of downtown on Route 66.

Additionally, with the “Mother Road’s” 2026 centennial approaching, Sapulpa’s Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum has geared up for expansion.

Sapulpa leaders have taken a similar strategy with a much larger asset. Last year, the city acquired roughly three miles of historic Route 66 through downtown and western Sapulpa. That has allowed it to plan ahead for big events in the future.

“Activity breeds activity,” said Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce President Janet Birnie. “We’ve always known how good a place Sapulpa could be. Now other people are starting to get that same idea. When they think of Sapulpa, they think of something positive. They think of action. They think of growth.”