TG&Y: An Original Oklahoma Icon

Chisholm Trail Museum
Kingfisher, OK

Through photographs, narrative, hands-on material, and loaned artifacts, TG&Y: An Original Oklahoma Icon revealed the history of a small town variety store in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and how it emerged to become one of the most successful chain variety stores in the nation.

Founded by Raymond A. Young in the late 1920s, TG&Y was the first store based in Oklahoma to reach over a billion dollars in sales, and grew to more than nine hundred stores across the United States by the end of the twentieth century. Despite the success and influence of the TG&Y empire, its story had never been told to the public in a substantial way. The museum’s main objective was to present this history for the first time, as well as to draw former TG&Y employees and enthusiasts to the museum while also honoring those who had fond memories and strong ties to the once-great retail giant. Realizing the potential for sharing this uniquely Oklahoman story, the museum contacted former TG&Y employees and the local business owner who is currently housed in R.A. Young’s old store building. This local collaboration resulted in loans and donations of rare TG&Y artifacts for the exhibit.

The exhibit was a success, drawing thousands to the Chisholm Trail Museum from across the state and nation. TG&Y instilled local pride through remembrance of R.A. Young and his humble beginnings in Kingfisher, and brought greater awareness and support of the museum from the local community. Visitation, museum memberships, and local volunteerism all increased in the wake of this exhibit, which received extensive publicity in state news programs, papers, and radio.

One reviewer noted:

Part of the appeal of this exhibit is the longevity of the TG&Y enterprise and the loyalty it engendered among its employees and customers that has transformed into an irresistible nostalgia since the chain’s demise. Opening day drew more than fifty former employees, many of whom brought additional memorabilia and artifacts which were then incorporated into the exhibit. This kind of interactive participation – wave after wave of visitors coming from across the state and country as word of the exhibit spread, bringing their own bits of the store’s history – helped keep the exhibit fresh and new and also instilled a sense of ownership among those who contributed, prompting in many cases repeat visits.

Evaluated visitors overwhelmingly voiced a desire to see the exhibit on permanent display. Consequently, the museum now houses a permanent TG&Y exhibit and draws new visitors daily with the story of a hometown hero and local legend that was central to so many lives in Kingfisher and beyond.