Wildcat welcome


Wildcat Market on the Corner of Columbia and Oldham is now open. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Brooke McCloud

The living is easy on the corner of Columbia Avenue and Oldham Court.

Curiosity springs as people drive by examining the Wildcat Market that opened February 23.

It is a locally owned convenient store located in the middle of a heavily student-populated area.

“We want to make this place a UK tradition,”  Frank Bargo, co-owner of Wildcat Market, said.

A large, red screen door is left open, allowing tunes from bands like Sublime, the Steve Miller Band and Hank Williams III to flow onto the porch.

The owners’ dogs, Low Rider and Etta James, leisurely await customers.

“This is our own vision,” Bargo said. “We aren’t trying to be like anybody else.”

Unusual is key. An unlikely spot and rare products allow students and the neighborhood to experience something they can’t get at a corporately owned convenience store.

“I always feel sketchy when going into big named convenient stores,” Brandon Myers, a forestry sophomore, said. “I don’t feel that here — it’s home.”

Ale-8-One returnable bottles have been some of Wildcat Market’s best sellers thus far, Bargo said. Candy-coated espresso beans in flavors like Bailey’s Irish Cream and Amaretto have also been successful.

Jewelry made by the mother of co-owner Beth Wickstrom sits on the counter along with homemade blueberry pomegranate tea.

The market received its beer and liquor license Monday. This provided an opportunity for the owners to seek out unique refreshments. Flying Dog, Great Lakes and Purple Haze, as well as a relaxation beverage called Lean, line the insides of vintage refrigerators.

“Ever since I was little I wanted to be my own boss,” Bargo said. “When my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, ‘I want to own the world.’”

A picnic bench, lawn chairs and a stoop encourage customers not just to stop in, but to also hang out.

“You get to see people from the neighborhood, there are awesome vibes and you feel more than just a customer,” Michael Tierney, a political science senior, said.

Eight surveillance cameras line the store, and lights brim from the building.

“I feel safer now that there is something going on,” said Leigh White, a human nutrition senior. “The neighborhood feels more civilized, more comforting.”

The property is more than 100 years old and has long been used for commercial purposes. It had been boarded, however, for a year and a half. In the 1950s, it was called Bobby Brown’s Grocery.

“This has been more than what we wanted,” Bargo said. “The whole process has been outstanding.”

Wildcat Market is open from 7 a.m. to midnight, but times are still being finalized.

In the upcoming weeks, the owners want to have local musicians play on the front porch, but the biggest goal for the store is to serve hot and cold food and eventually deliver to South Campus and the surrounding neighborhood.

“It makes living in the neighborhood more fun and easy for everyone,” White said.