By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A chocolate Labrador Retriever named Penney and a passion for old maps led Oklahoman Mike Howard to an unexpected business opportunity.
After collecting vintage maps for many years, Howard began copying them and displaying them at work and in his home. Before long, friends and family members became interested in his hobby and began requesting them for themselves.
“I am nearing retirement and decided if wanted to retire to the country where Penney would have a place to run, I would need to have a small business to make ends meet,” said Howard, owner of Penney’s Territorial Maps.
“We have about 30 shops in northeast Oklahoma who stock and sell the maps,” Howard said. “I have really been surprised at how well the maps have been received. The business is expanding to other states, and I now have dealers in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. I should be in New Mexico and Colorado by the end of 2019.”
The Made in Oklahoma program works with Oklahoma agribusinesses at local, regional and national levels to promote retail, institutional and gourmet sales. Activities include marketing programs targeted to increase consumer awareness about the availability and quality of Oklahoma agriculture products. Promotional methods include cooperative participation at trade shows and media advertising.
Partnering organizations include the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry, Oklahoma Agritourism, Oklahoma Grown, and the Made in Oklahoma Coalition.
Howard reproduces the old maps that are artificially aged and then mounted in rustic wood frames. Howard said he is pleased by the reaction his customers have to his maps.
“I love hearing all the stories about their family’s history, looking for long lost towns, or pointing out where their land run claim was,” he said. “I have learned so much history about Oklahoma just talking to customers about the maps. I feel customers love the maps because it gives them a link to the past.”
In March 2000, seven Oklahoma food manufacturers began meeting to discuss ways in which they could collectively work together to increase sales of their products. The group began pooling resources to create a doable marketing campaign. They realized the greater the number of Made In Oklahoma products, the greater the impact, which would lead to greater sales. As a result, the Made In Oklahoma Coalition was formed.
Today, over 60 members companies match public dollars with private funds to create marketing campaigns supported by retail advertisements, point-of-sale materials, billboards, radio commercials, social media, recipe contests, food service sales promotions, television segments and special appearances.