JOPLIN, Mo. —
Whether you’ve been there for a cold beer, a nice cheeseburger or spending hours listening to local pickers ply their trade, there’s one thing a patron will always hear when exiting River’s Bend Bar & Grill:
“See you tomorrow!”
Those three words, always offered cheerily by River’s Bend co-owner Ann Galbreath, has become a trademark inside this tucked-away treat.
The remote coziness of the place, the covered outdoor patio overlooking Shoal Creek and the family atmosphere inside created by Ann and husband, Tom, have made it the proverbial “home away from home” for those who visit.
“We try to make it feel like a home to them,” said Tom, who with his wife has owned and operated three bars and several campgrounds in their native Minnesota. “That’s what we want them to feel like when they come. I always say (first-time patrons) walk in here as strangers and they leave as friends.”
Regulars to River’s Bend will often tell Tom they won’t tell their friends about the place because they want it to remain their secret hideaway.
“That’s what we want to hear,” Tom said with a grin.
Cleared the way
The bar and grill and adjacent campgrounds, currently home to nine permanent residents but large enough to house 20, is located just off Highway NN a mile south of Redings Mill. There are also 50-plus primitive campsites.
Less than two years ago, the area was choked with trees and overgrown weeds. That’s how it looked when the couple purchased the nearly nine-acre parcel of land and decided to call Southwest Missouri their new home.
Rolling up their sleeves, they went about cutting down nearly 80 trees and clearing the overgrown brush to expose several abandoned buildings, which had once been used long ago as a bed and breakfast operation.
They purchased the property in February of last year. The bar and grill opened the following April.
“We did 90 percent of all the work,” Tom said proudly. “We hardly had any hired help. We did it with our own hands. We’ve always worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, all of our lives. We don’t know any other way.”
When Tom and Ann purchased the property for an undisclosed price, the real estate agent asked Tom what they planned to do with the land.
“I looked at him and said, ‘A bar and grill.’ I looked over toward Ann and she was grinning from ear to ear.’”
With both retired, they were hoping to purchase and operate both a campground and a restaurant/bar establishment simultaneously. In their minds, the two expected them to be separated by many miles, perhaps in completely different cities. It was fortunate, then, they’d stumbled across a location large enough to house both of their dreams.
It was even better, Tom said, that it was located in Southwest Missouri, the place they had fallen in love with over the years, with the proposed building for their bar and grill nestled next to the rolling waters of Shoal Creek.
“It makes us unique, having this (bar and grill) right next to the campgrounds,” he said.