There was a time not long ago when openings in Joplin — either on Main Street or Range Line Road — were a rare thing. In fact, it was more about closings than openings.
Well, hold on to your hats, folks, because there are more openings in the works now than probably ever before.
First up is Andy’s Frozen Custard, 2934 S. Range Line. It opened this past week. If the line of vehicles going by the drive-through window is any indication, Andy’s is receiving a warm welcome from Joplin.
I dropped by on Friday and picked up a frozen custard bar that was dipped in milk chocolate. It was cheap — $2.90 with tax — and easy to eat while driving the strip. It was very tasty. Right before I arrived, I got to see a sign company put up a big frozen custard cone on top of the rotating sign out front. The design of this place is just crazy cool, but the big cone puts it over the top.
Carl Richard’s Bowl East on North Range Line Road at 3131 Ten Pin Alley will reopen on Friday after a summer hiatus.
The opening of the new IHOP is set for Aug. 7. The vehicles you see on the parking lot now are those of employees who are learning the ropes.
Opening in the middle of August will be the new Ross Dress for Less in the NorthPoint Shopping Center. This clothing store is occupying the former Hastings bookstore.
Of course, the most highly anticipated opening will be Jim Bob’s Steaks and Ribs in the former Cabo del Sol restaurant on the southeast corner of the Sam’s Club parking lot.
I dropped by on Friday to see whether Steve and Stacy Gamble will be able to make their Wednesday opening date. Work inside is progressing at an incredible pace, but it’s going to be close. Said Steve: “We’ll know on Aug. 2.’’
Longtime patrons will recognize that a lot of stuff inside of the old Jim Bob’s at 2040 S. Range Line was saved after the tornado. You remember all of those mounted animals, and deer and buffalo heads? They’re coming back. Some old wood and doors that were in the original restaurant were salvaged, too.
I had a chance to talk to Steve on Friday about what it has been like for his family after the storm and the challenges they faced coming back. The original plan was to rebuild on the old spot as quickly as possible. The engineering plans were drafted to do that. During this period, the Gambles were helped immensely by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. They also met Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who took an immediate liking to them. The feeling was mutual. Don’t be surprised if you see the governor chowing down on some ribs there soon.
Shortly after that, Hy-Vee, the grocery store chain that is still looking for a site in Joplin, wanted to buy their property and others nearby. While the deal was being put together, the Gambles had second thoughts about whether they would come back. When the Hy-Vee deal fell through, they decided to press forward and eventually negotiated the purchase of Cabo del Sol from Gary Hall, a local businessman. Their old property on Range Line is now for sale.
Based on my conversation with Steve, I think it’s safe to say that the Gambles have a sincere appreciation for this town. We sometimes forget in the hoopla of a family-owned restaurant returning after the tornado that there is an emotional side to this that is deeply felt.
When the 40 or so former employees of this restaurant reunite in the days ahead, it will be like a family coming back together. I’m sure there will be plenty of hugs and some tears of joy, and I’m sure that for Joplin the feeling will be mutual.
If you have news about something happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; send an email to email@example.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.