A Brief History of 1907
My name is Brie Caywood, I’m a relatively average lady with the fortunate disposition of not liking to work for other people, so I went into business for myself. I own a boutique with my folks, Steve and Debbie Caywood called 1907, and we would love to tell you a bit about our entrepreneurial journey to opening one of Broken Arrow T Shirts.
Journey is an apt definition. First things first, I was raised right. I have been blessed immensely to have parents who love each other and can enjoy working together and with me. My Granddaddy was an entrepreneur. He built houses and then owned furniture stores and waterbed stores in the 70s and 80s, and he taught my Daddy everything he knew. My childhood is full of memories of his stores, and everyone in the family having waterbeds. It was the entrepreneurial spirit that was ingrained deep.
Debbie painstakingly climbed the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry so my brothers and I could go to college and learn from her leadership. Steve and Debbie seemed to work different shifts to always make sure we were at little league practice, most of which Steve coached, church, band competitions and ball games, with a family dinner around the table at the end of the night. Luckily, Daddy cooked for us so we didn’t starve. My mother has no desire to cook, and let’s just say you can tell… But we were happy, and we knew what mattered in our house; Jesus, family, and Star Trek.
The support of a family that believes you can do anything you set your mind to is a gift more precious than diamonds. So as a child and teen I was taught life lessons and how to make things, and the value of a hard day’s work. Not many girls took Woodshop class or helped build their home, but I did, and I could see the long-term benefits of what my family was trying to teach me. My family taught me how to solve problems and isn’t that what makes a great entrepreneur.
That and vision, and that I’ve got in spades! I knew I wanted to open a shop in downtown Broken Arrow since I was about 12. I bounced around on what kind of shop for a while, but the goal was there, to be a part of the Broken Arrow T Shirts scene. I set my sights on the best education and experience I could get to be ready when the time was right. I graduated, with honors, from the University of Tulsa with a Bachelors in Business Administration with a major in Management with a Specialization in Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Quite the mouthful – and have all but about 6 hours of a MBA, because the timing was right to open my shop. Also, I had some health issues that led to having four brain surgeries and an intracranial hemorrhage in my early 20’s (fun, right?), and I didn’t want to hurt my brain anymore trying to understand international finance, it just didn’t seem good for my health.
Sidenote here, My Dad, Steve, is 100% a servant leader (which totally shows in his service), when I didn’t get enough scholarships to pay for my education, he went to work at TU, starting as a janitor and worked his way up, so me and my brother could get tuition benefits, it meant more to me than he will ever know.
We decided to start looking at Broken Arrow T Shirts property downtown in May 2013, when revitalizing Main Street was only rumored. I could have never imagined it would turn out so beautifully then. That summer was intense, with no real track record trying to find a landlord to take a gamble on us, took some perseverance to say the least. We finally found a couple who would lease to us, but then the renovation of their dilapidated building was quite the adventure. We knocked down fake office walls, painted everything, floor to ceiling, removed broken glass, and tried to make it our own without going broke on someone else’s property.
Somewhere over that summer, the concept for 1907 was born. Okie pride wasn’t a mainstream concept at the time, but I figured if it’s where you call home, you ought to love it. I also wanted locally made goods for our shop, because it makes no sense to ask customers to shop locally, if I wasn’t buying locally for them to shop from. We did carry American made merchandise when we first opened because we couldn’t find enough Oklahoma made products to fill our Broken Arrow T Shirts, 1907, the way I wanted to.
As we grew and evolved, we moved more of our merchandising in-house, and I started designing and doodling shirt designs. This led to the purchase of a screen-print machine, now all the designs we do are printed in the back of the shop. We didn’t have room to screen-print in our first location, so we moved across the street to a bigger, nicer building, this one had a pretty brick exterior and more of a historic vibe than a rundown vibe.
We grew more, and both my folks retired, Steve from the University of Tulsa, and Debbie from corporate America; mom’s retirement present to herself was a giant laser, who needs a boat! So, we continued to expand into laser engraving and soap making. Our problem-solving nature kicked in and we taught ourselves the skills needed to be successful with graphic design and skincare formulations. You can learn a lot from books and YouTube if you’re stubborn enough.
With a desire to put down roots we started looking for a building to purchase. I never imagined we’d buy the abandoned garage and train depot when I started looking, but everything works out like it’s supposed to, God clothes the lilies after all. We were very fortunate to have bought our property before the housing shortage and the shutdown. If I was just sitting there with nothing to do for 2 months, I would have gone mad. We remodeled and moved while we were closed and made the best of a bad situation. We again painted, cleaned and got ready to re-open 1907 in May of 2020, in our Broken Arrow T Shirts permanent location, we even kicked out a raccoon. Sometimes my entrepreneurial journey has been very exciting!
Just to clarify, we didn’t close because we were scared of COVID, we had a mortgage on one building, and rent in another and double utilities and insurance and all the things… So moving and getting out of our rental property literally made the most sense. We opened in our new spot as soon as we had the front doors in and the power on, and never followed a mask mandate or recommendation. We just required people to respect each other, and if they weren’t comfortable breathing the same air we breathed that wasn’t our problem.
The last two years of being open for business on our own property has been amazing. There definitely is a deeper level of pride in owning the building and dirt we do business in. It may not be the fanciest building on Main Street, but you can’t judge your story by someone else’s Chapter 20 of their journey and your Chapter 1. I’ll build my Broken Arrow T Shirts empire one brick at a time and keep pouring into my little block until it’s as amazing as the vision I have in my head. Then I’ll dream up something more fantastic to add to it. This is a journey I’ll be on for the rest of my life, and I can only hope I put entrepreneurial roots into the next generations of my family like the previous generations poured into me.