Down on Riverside, the Gathering Place illustrates the potential natural beauty of Oklahoma, as well as building a canvas for perfect sunsets. photo by Adam Walsh

Gathering Place vs. The Gathering Place

A seemingly selfless charitable project headed by the Tulsa elite attacks a hometown coffee shop

What’s the difference between a $465 million dollar park and a small-town coffee shop? Well, not a whole lot apparently. Tulsa’s riverfront park, widely known as Gathering Place, has decided to sue a small coffee shop in Shawnee over name rights. The coffee shop, called The Gathering Place, has been transparent on social media, claiming they had good intentions in naming their company and never meant to cause monetary damages to the non-profit park. The coffee shop opened their business to the Shawnee community in 2016, and is owned by two families, the Hiltons and the Ingrams. Their mission statement includes serving good coffee and building relationships in their community. The park opened around this time in 2018, and have published their motive to bring together and serve the Tulsa community.

The Hiltons and Ingrams find it hard to believe they could’ve caused any significant damage to a million-dollar park’s reputation since there is more than an hour and 30 minute distance between them. The park is not only asking the coffee shop to change its name, but they are also asking for money in return for the damages. The amount will be decided in a trial if it comes to that. I mean, the companies have just one-word differentiating them, but there’s a big difference between a coffee shop and a park, and they also have a wide distance separating them even more (or so you would think). The Gathering Place claimed to be confident in their legal team to resolve this issue, but have yet to comment on the accusations rising in their company’s name.

For now, the coffee shop has 21 days to respond to these demands. The only statements in the public are from last week, where the coffee shop owners say they could potentially lose it all. The saddest part is reading the Google reviews and realizing how loved this company is by those residents visiting nearby shops or just stopping by for a baked good on their way to work.

“What they’ve asked for us to repay to them for using the Gathering Place name is everything we could have,” Ingram said. “You know they would take everything from us if they won this lawsuit.”

Gathering Place is one of Tulsa’s free and public parks, but what separates it from the hundreds of parks in Tulsa is that Gathering Place ranges over 100 acres of land alongside Riverside Drive. It opened in September of 2018 and is still sitting at the largest private donation to a public park in US history. The George Kaiser Family Foundation, and also other foundations and businesses, contributed to the $465 million dollar price tag to give back to the community. Gathering Place’s designers include Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architects responsible for Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, Maggie Daley Park in Chicago and other well-known urban public spaces.

Knowing the history of the Kaiser family, it’s not hard to assume they can afford the losses of what is probably small to their wallets compared to the amount in legal fees and court fines that the coffee shop owners simply cannot cough up so easily. I mean, if you are familiar with Tulsa and its culture, you might recognize the family name for being a major shareholder of St. John Medical Center on 21st and Utica. The George Kaiser Family Foundation owns both the Kaiser Medical building, and also the Kaiser Rehabilitation Center. Going off of just this information, it feels as if the park is trying to one-up where they can, because let’s be real: the company is doing just fine despite the fact that there’s a small business with the same-ish name. Also, if this is such an issue, why did they only just now decide to sue? Both companies have been around for 3 years, so honestly this is just ridiculously unnecessary.

When doing a quick Google search of The Gathering Place, the coffee shop, it shows two and a half pages of articles and links to the park before the coffee shop is even brought up, and that’s probably because of all the media attention from the past week. There is no real conflict, and truly no harm done, except for the spiteful attack on a personal, private business.

Post Author: Ji Aldada