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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Pandemic inspiring creative approaches to keeping community alive

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Owners and twins, Landon Ferguson, left, and Layne Ferguson pose in 2018 behind the counter at Capitals Ice Cream at 1006 N. Hudson Ave. [Doug Hoke,The Oklahoman Archives]
Owners and twins, Landon Ferguson, left, and Layne Ferguson pose in 2018 behind the counter at Capitals Ice Cream at 1006 N. Hudson Ave. [Doug Hoke,The Oklahoman Archives]

Almost two weeks have passed since a Thunder home game against the Utah Jazz was halted just before it could start when a player was found to have tested positive for the new cornavirus.

It was the moment that sent a shock wave throughout the country, ushering in the realization that life must change due to a pandemic threatening millions with serious illness or death.

Oklahoma City, long a major metro area with the heart of a small town, is wired in a way where community gatherings and experiences are part of our DNA. And now we’re all being asked to stay away from each other with bars, theaters and music venues closing in response to emergency orders by Mayor David Holt in an attempt to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic.

Businesses are adapting. Last week I mentioned operators of Tower Theatre in Uptown were set to experiment with live streaming.

So far it’s a success with sponsors for the first week and for the next three. Local rapper Jabee drew 10,000 viewers while Grayson Chance, another local performer with a national following, drew 50,000 as of Monday with thousands more expected after the performance was linked to his social media following of 1.8 million fans.

The live streaming from Ponyboy, the smaller music venue and bar adjoining Tower, is helping pay the bills to keep both alive — for now.

Oak City Pizza, which recently opened in Edmond’s downtown “Rail Yard,” is sending out its food truck for bookings in area neighborhoods where people can get their slices while keeping a distance.

The next big experiment is being launched by brothers Landon and Layne Ferguson, entrepreneurs who successfully launched Capitals Ice Cream in Midtown two years ago. The experience of enjoying an ice cream in the parlour itself is no longer allowed, so stuck with just take-out, the brothers turned a handful of parking spaces into a 1950s-style drive-up that will include music playlists played both on outdoor speakers and via Spotify.

Their other endeavor, however, is designed to help not just Capitals Ice Cream but also an array of retailers.

Their vision, dubbed CITYBOX, is to recreate the fun experiences of shopping, dining and entertainment downtown in a way that they can be enjoyed in one’s living room.

The brothers, who also recently opened Sincerely Coffee Roasters and Cities Ice Cream in Edmond, started talking with other retailers who were once a part of customers’ shared experiences.

"One of the greatest tragedies we have noticed since restaurants have been forced to close their dining spaces is the loss of connection between people," Landon Ferguson said. "Oklahoma City is a small town. You become accustomed to walking into a place and seeing the 'usuals.'"

The Fergusons hope CITYBOX will give increasingly isolated customers at home the opportunity to shop from multiple local retailers at once instead of having to go to each store or order from each shop online individually.

Launched Monday, the brothers sold 65 boxes during the first few hours, offering four different at-home experience boxes with items from 14 local retailers. Some of the items include a take-and-bake pizza from Hall's Pizza Kitchen, a candle from Commonplace Books, beer from Stonecloud brewery, hand sanitizer from Local Lather, and coffee from Elemental Coffee. The four types of boxes currently being offered include the CITYBOX, the Date Night Box, the Brew Box, and the Stuck-at-Home Box. CITYBOX hopes to add more boxes soon with items from more local retailers.

The boxes range from $50 to $115. And yes, the ice cream can be delivered with the box, via cooler, though customers are still welcome to buy a voucher with the box and experience the new drive-up.

Orders for this week must be ordered by Wednesday with pick-up or delivery on Saturday. Boxes bought after Wednesday will be available the following Saturday. Further details, a list of options and retailers, along with purchasing is at www.cityboxokc.com.

The length and severity of the pandemic is unknown. We hope and pray it won’t last long or hit hard. But we can be certain that with the creativity already being shown in the face of adversity, we won’t be destroyed. We will survive.

Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

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