One of my first assignments at the Urban Tulsa Weekly was a feature article on sports bars. Hard work I tell ya. I spent many hours in many bars looking for ways to quantify them as 'sports' bars.
Of the eight or so I reviewed, only two were truly 'sports' bars. The rest were bars with a couple of 19-inch televisions tucked in a corner. They served cold beer so yeah, close enough.
You knew it was only a matter of time before I dropped by the relatively new Sports Fan-Attic Bar and Grill, 5211 S. Sheridan Road. A real treat for sports junkies.
The walls are covered in huge flat screen televisions. Between the mammoth screens are sports trinkets paying homage to such legends as Babe Ruth, OU football and TU great Paul Smith.
There's a cozy seating arrangement in front of an inviting fireplace. Did I mention the flat panel hanging above the fireplace? I shouldn't have to. They are everywhere.
The bar area is separate from the eating area. Perfect setting for an after work drink with colleges. Of course families are always welcome.
"This is my dream place," said owner Jeff Jackson. "I don't like a bunch of little TVs. There's no smoking. There's an outdoor patio if you want to smoke. I want people to be able to bring their kids in. I want them to feel comfortable even if they are in a bar."
SFBG opened several months ago. What was Jackson into prior to his dream place?
Selling Terminator Lures? Learning the ways of the Force from Tony Holden? Pretty much.
A New Hope
My plan was a quick write-up on the Bar and Grill. A brief conversation with Jackson altered the path. But let me emphatically restate: If you like the idea of a sports bar and grill. Check it out.
Jackson is originally from Kansas. Yes, the same state Bill Self calls home these days. In fact, the 1998 NCAA basketball tournament ended terribly in these parts. Kansas beat OU in a mild upset.
"The ironic thing about it is when KU beat OU--that's when I started my first Sports Fan-Attic. I was selling shirts off my shoulder going into bars, fraternities and sororities," he remembered of his days in Lawrence.
Today he owns three versions of the popular sports apparel store. Woodland Hills Mall, 7021 S. Memorial, is home to the original Sports Fan-Attic as well as Kids Fan-Attic.
A tragic Sooners loss got him started. A historic Sooners victory (2000 National Championship) vaulted his successful stores to new heights.
So how did he get from Kansas to Tulsa? Glad you asked. You may recall a cover story I pinned a month or so ago on Tony Holden, boxing promoter extraordinaire (find "King of the Ring" in the April 3-9 issue or online).
Jackson and Holden were friends. Jackson worked out of his house running casino fights with Holden. He was Tony's event coordinator. Holden moved to Tulsa and hit the jackpot with the terminator lure infomercial. "He wanted me to move down here," said Jackson.
He made the jump in 1995. He continued the boxing and concert gigs with Holden until he married and had his first kid. Too much traveling.
Why not try his hand at the sports apparel game in Tulsa? He became a tenant in Woodland Hills. "We started out with mainly NASCAR and professional wrestling stuff," he laughed.
His tenure in Woodland Hills has seen his location change three times. Sports Fan-Attic remains one of only two locally-owned stores in the mall.
The thing that separates his sports stores from others around town is simple. They continually bring in popular sports figures with a heavy concentration on OU players past and present. Yes, the occasional Cowboy or Hurricane is invited.
"I'm more of a marketer. We do autograph signings every year. I'm very well connected with OU. I'm now partners with Jason (White), Steve (Owens). I'm also partners with Billy Sims," he said.
More on Tulsa's barbeque mogul in a bit.
His stores secure championship t-shirts and caps from title winners. If you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and they win the Super Bowl, Sports Fan-Attic has you covered. Don't get excited Steelers fans; you have another 20 or so years to wait.
Cook, Sell, Give
Jackson is no stranger to charity. He lends a big hand to Tulsa Sports Charities annual golf tournament featuring Heisman Trophy winners from the past. In fact, we'll give this event its own column in the coming weeks.
Running out of room here so I'll just jump to the last item. Billy Sims BBQ. Yeah, you guessed it. Jackson and Sims are partners in this venture, too. Of course if you read the UTW regularly, you would remember this from 2006 when we covered the eatery.
Remember, Jackson hails from the Kansas City area so BBQ is a big deal to him. "I thought there was a need (in Tulsa)," he recalled.
Then there was Billy."
He brought Sims in for autograph sessions. He was contractually obligated for sit, nod and sign for two hours. Nine hours later Billy would still be sitting there engaging in Sooner football talk with any and every one surrounding him.
Jackson took Sims to a state fair and witnessed the Sooner Magic people talk about it. "It was unbelievable what I saw-people crying." Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 state fair motto!
Billy's first BBQ joint opened with a bang... err... Boom in 2004. "We had a grand opening the first week which was crazy. This place is little. This parking lot was full. Switzer came, Thomas Lott. Josh Heupel. There were like 15 players that came out. Steve Owens. It was a zoo. A nightmare," he said.
Now there are five Billy Sims BBQ's. Franchises are available. Billy Sims BBQ sauce invaded your local grocery store and has climbed to the no. 2 locally-made sauce in the state.
Keep this in the back of you brain. If you are visiting one of the Sports Fan-Attics, Sports Fan-Attic Bar and Grill or Billy Sims BBQ--you never know if you'll bump into a Sooner Legend.
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