City of Atoka Eagerly Awaits Reba McEntire’s New Restaurant
KTUL - November 14, 2022 5:58 am
ATOKA, Okla. (KTUL) — She is one of Oklahoma’s favorite home-grown celebrities.
Reba McEntire grew up in Atoka County and credits the tiny town with instilling the hard-working values that made her a superstar.
Now, she’s saying a very special “Thank you” to the town and its residents in the way she does best.
Reba is almost ready to take the stage. The stagehands are ready, the set is almost complete, and her adoring fans are already there, eagerly waiting for the show to start.
Oklahoma Native Reba McEntire
“The first time I ever saw Reba was at a place called the Atoka Food Center, right before Fancy came out,” she said. “And you could tell she was a driven woman. She had this look about her, when she stepped into that store, that she had something to do and I knew her from seeing her sing at rodeos, but as a small-town girl getting to see someone that driven and that ambitious and just humble.”
But this is no Reba concert, this is an enrichment, an investment into the town that made Reba McEntire a star.
After four decades of a successful music career, followed by an acting career, a clothing line, and dozens of awards and accolades, Reba has decided to open a restaurant in her hometown. Restaurant manager Garrett Smith says that all of the elements fell into place with the Choctaw Nation, Reba’s Management team, and many others after Reba’s home community realized the potential.
“The City of Atoka is amazing. The City of Atoka had this dream, they saw the vision, they could actually see it. And they knew they had highway 69, running right here,” Smith said.
One of the oldest buildings in Atoka, the site used to be the Masonic Temple at 301 East Court Street is now newly renovated and nearly ready to open as a warm and welcoming restaurant featuring comfort food, good southern cooking, and McEntire family favorites.
“The menu is going to be amazing. So when you think of Oklahoma and what we’re known for, you think of beans and cornbread, you think of pimiento cheese sandwiches, you think of chicken fried steak,” Smith said. “You’ve got everything from shrimp and grits from New Orleans all the way to street tacos out in New Mexico.”
Not only will Reba’s Place feature foods that tickle Oklahoman’s fancy, it’ll also feature Oklahoma’s artisans, authors, and more.
“You’re looking at literally at two floors of restaurant space, but then you go up onto the third floor and you have almost 3,000 square foot of retail space. Everything from Reba merch to southeastern Oklahoma artisans to native American artisans to just Oklahoma-inspired product. So that’s really cool.”
Adjacent to the retail space on the third floor, there’s also a library that commemorates Reba’s mother, Jacqueline.
“She was an avid reader, so upon her death, she had almost 4,000 books. And so we have taken this corner space, on the third floor, and this will be Jack’s library,” he said. “So we will house her books there. People can come in and sit and can browse thru the books and they can read, flip thru them while they’re waiting on their table, while they’re having a drink.”
This isn’t only a restaurant with a library, it’s a concert space and entertainment venue, but it’s also a local employment mecca, hiring hundreds of locals for everything from architects to barbacks.
And now the little town of Atoka is going from a town known for…
“Lot of ranchin’ people. We’re the wampus cats,” Smith said. “It’s a mythical cat, some people say it’s made up some say it’s truly real. Uh, if you’re talking about Atoka you’re maybe thinking a little about the Sasquatch. It’s been known to be seen around here.”
To a destination…
“Oh, it’s Boomtown! It’s gonna be so much fun it’s unreal,” he said. “It’s an entire community, it’s one big team.”
And the locals, couldn’t be happier for this encore.
“The service industry has not been a big industry in this town, and neither has tourism, but we have a deep history and with her bringing in an industry here we get to showcase our historical downtown and the history of our downtown is amazing, and people just want to know,” said Christy Pittman, Reba’s Place employee. “Thank you for giving girls in this town an opportunity and hope, because somebody who came out of this town made it worldwide. We don’t all want to be famous, but we all want to thank her for being someone for us to look up to.”