The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 23, 2013

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Ice cream venture turns up several scoops

PITTSBURG, Kan. — My husband and I took the kids and my mom for an evening stroll down Broadway last week with ice cream cones to see the larger-than-life coal buckets installed by SEK Art Fest.

The coal bucket “parade” was a good reason to get downtown on foot and see what’s happening.

I noticed that Ryan’s Dry Cleaners, 706 N. Broadway, had put a “for sale” sign out front. Family-owned and operated, it has been in business for 70 years. I called Chris Ryan, the grandson of the founders, and he confirmed it is for sale.

“It’s just myself, my dad and my grandma here,” he said. “I think they’re ready to call it quits.”

I also was surprised to see that the Main Street USA antique store, 408 N. Broadway, was closed up and gone; I had enjoyed browsing there for inexpensive treasures.

The last phone number I had for the owners was disconnected. Sarah Jensen across the street at the Colonial Fox Theatre said they left without notice a week after the Fox’s antique auction.

Also on our walk, I noticed a new store I am going to check out with my next paycheck. Deja-Vu, at 611 N. Broadway, sells gently used, brand name clothing and accessories on consignment.

Another big change coming to Broadway will be at Chuck Parsons’ CP Communications, 2400 N. Broadway. He has been in business as a U.S. Cellular agent for 20 years, having started small in Pittsburg and grown to also have stores in Chanute, Parsons and Fort Scott.

His new Pittsburg store, which opened a year ago, was a sizable investment on his part: He took out bank loans to the tune of $675,000 to build it.

Chuck learned from U.S. Cellular corporate headquarters earlier this spring that his contract would not be renewed again when it is due in August. He employs a staff of 27 among all stores and serves about 30,000 customers.

“It was awful,” he said. “I was expecting another 20 years out of this business. I was even thinking about how to hand it down to the kids and retire in a few years.”

Chuck said he wasn’t told why. A corporate spokesman told me that U.S. Cellular is always looking at ways to best serve its customers, and that it decided not to renew its agent agreement with C.P. Communications.

Customers with questions may call 888-944-9400.

But Chuck said he is turning lemons into lemonade by converting the 3,100-square-foot showroom into several uses: He earned certification in repair of all makes and models of cellphones, tablets and other mobile devices, and will open “a superstore” of accessories.

His wife, Kelli, will open a consignment shop there, and they’ll also start sales of three-wheeled, battery-powered mobility scooters.

Chuck plans to rent out the finished basement, which includes restrooms, a kitchen and outside access, as space for conferences, birthdays, showers and other group events. He will rent two to three offices upstairs, as well.

Meanwhile, take time this summer to get an ice cream cone and check out the coal buckets. They’re on display until Labor Day. And if you have more scoops from Broadway or elsewhere in Pittsburg, email me at astefanoni@joplinglobe.com

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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