Like many Oklahomans, Bob Benham can recall Gov. Brad Henry's election into office in 2002. Benham's recollection is unique, however, because by the Thursday of that fateful week, the new first lady, Kim Henry, was in his store looking for something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
"I walked over to her said, 'Congratulations,' and welcomed her to Balliets," Benham said. "She looked at me, smiled, and said, 'I have to get something for the inaugural ball, but I don't know what to get. I'm just a school teacher from Shawnee.'"
He assured the first lady that she was in good hands from there on out.
Balliets has been an Oklahoma fashion icon for almost three quarters of a century. Originally housed within the historic Skirvin Hotel in downtown, the store has since relocated twice, making its ascent up the ladder of success and solidifying its presence in the global fashion industry.
For the past six years, fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar has named Balliets as one of its annual style leaders. The title, determined by the publication's editors and fashion industry leaders, is one bestowed upon just 74 specialty stores across the nation.
Criteria for selection are based upon high-quality customer service, availability of luxury items and an overall personalized shopping experience. The honor is one that was given to only two retailers in Oklahoma: Miss Jackson's, of Tulsa, and Balliets.
"We are very proud of the designation," Benham said. "It gives us a great amount of satisfaction for Balliets and for Oklahoma City."
The store recently moved from 50 Penn Place to become the anchor of Classen Curve, a newly built restaurant and retail complex. Balliets now rests in a 17,000-square-foot space, with a grand staircase, a spa room, high-fashion apparel and a list of amenities offered to shoppers.
"Whenever I need something, I always go to Balliets first," Kim Henry said. "I'd rather go there, no matter where I'm shopping."
The retailer offers consumers a hefty list of designer labels, including Kate Spade, Michael Stars, Prada Donna, Jimmy Choo and Yves Saint Laurent. Although the selection is a large one, Benham said shoppers should not worry about the uniqueness of their purchases, as the merchandise is strategically chosen with originality in mind.
"The way we edit the collection and merchandise is like weaving a tapestry that we provide to our consumers," he said.
With previous first ladies, senators' wives and several other prominent women on Balliets' résumé of loyal shoppers, Henry didn't have to look far to find a home within Balliets.
"Bob and DeDe put a friendly touch on the store," she said. "They know your name when you walk into the store. Still, it's like shopping in New York, but it's right here in Oklahoma." "Ta'chelle Jones