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Longtime tech traveler buys Tulsa hardware store


By LARRY NATION World Business Correspondent | Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2014 12:00 am

jeff2About a year ago, Tulsa native Jeff Marquis was a high-flying corporate globetrotter living
and working in exotic locations over the world for a Fortune 500 high-tech telecom
behemoth.

Now, he is the proprietor of Midtown Hardware – a homespun hammer and nails kind of
neighborhood hardware store at 4311 E. 31st St., where the popcorn for the customers is
always popped and there is always someone handy to give some “fixing” advice.

“It’s kind of a throwback to the old-time General Store,” Marquis said, “where we cut
keys, rescreen windows and have hard-to-find plumbing pieces.” He laughed that the store
also has Goat’s Lotion, Monkey Butt Powder and Udderly sMOOth Body Cream.

“We have great customers and our goods match the needs for our neighborhood,” he said,
noting that some of his customers include residents of Methodist Manor coming across the
street to “just look around, talk and have some popcorn. We love it.”

The Tulsa native played on the Memorial High School 1980 championship football team,
graduated from Oklahoma State University and joined up with Texas Instruments. While at
TI, he met and married Raymalyn, a Texas A&M grad who was – and still is – a flight attendant with Southwest Airlines.

Marquis — pronounced “Mar-keese” — then joined Nokia, the Finnish multinational communications and technology corporation. That’s when he hit the road as Nokia’s vice president of operations. Meanwhile, his family had grown with the births of a son, now 16, and daughter, 14.

Marquis lived and traveled abroad extensively for years, setting up and managing Nokia’s cellphone manufacturing operations. The operations were far-flung, including Romania and India. Family addresses included Mexico, China and Finland with Marquis traveling inter-continentally all the while.

In the spring last year, the Marquis family was living in Helsinki, Finland, and Marquis was working on the opposite side of the planet Hanoi, Vietnam, when he was offered two locales to choose for his next assignment for Nokia – Brazil or Dubai.


Marquis said he talked extensively with his family and instead opted for a third choice: leave the corporate world, return to his hometown of Tulsa and find a way to fulfill his promises to his family to be a close father to his teenage son and daughter and be his own boss as
well.

His wife has family in the Dallas area and a move there was in the conversation. But the Tulsa lifestyle was a major deciding factor, he said.

“We liked the town, the size and the opportunities.”
He heard from his father who heard from the friend of a friend about Midtown Hardware. Though it was not for sale, Midtown was an still an opportunity since Mike Little had operated the 35-year-old store for the last 25 years and was beginning to look at slowing down his pace while the store was in need of some “regeneration.”
Marquis, who oversaw the manufacture of a million cellphones a day, has always been a handy person and has worked on cars, motorcycles and other machinery with his dad and son.
It looked like this might be a fit, he said.

The deal with Little was done, Marquis said, “and while we were talking, we became friends. He’s still a part of the team.”

Marquis relishes the “convenience store of hardware” aspect of Midtown in contrast to the “big box” hardware outlets.
The store includes an outdoor garden center, plumbing, electrical and lawn items, but at about 7,000 square feet “we can’t have everything for everyone. So we focus on service.”

Marquis said there is a conscious effort “to offer a diverse merchandise mix ideally tailored to the unique needs of the homes and buildings in the neighborhood,” he said. One of the charms, he said, is having fun items such as lye soaps, wind chimes and lots of birdhouses. Oh – and those lotions, too.
With the neighborhood hardware store and settling on some acreage in Coweta, does Marquis miss the jet-setting life?

“Oh my goodness,” he said, “I have been to the most exotic locations in the world and I appreciate very much what they (corporate world) allowed me and my family to see and experience.

“But with being on the road constantly there is a tendency to lose touch and I was missing my family. What was missing was the ‘heart,’”

Marquis said. “Coming home (to Tulsa), I can be with my family and get in touch with who I am,” he said.
“When someone comes into the store, they are usually looking for help, and they came to us. Even if it’s just putting a new end on their garden hose,” he said, “it gets fixed and they walk out happy.
“You can’t beat that.”

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