By Ryan Richardson
DUQUESNE, Mo. —
A bulldozer was at work last week clearing away remnants of the Star Motel and Trailer Court at Seventh Street and Duquesne Road.
For property owners Alice and Pedro Pantoja, it’s the end of an era.
This is the last corner of the busy intersection that retained a piece of Duquesne history.
Casey’s will now build a new general store on the southwest corner of the intersection, across from the Kum & Go.
“We wanted to have something that could grow with the town,” Alice Pantoja said. “We wanted businesses, restaurants, not used car lots like you see all over towns.”
Pedro Pantoja purchased the corner of the intersection on July 1, 1973, and the couple expanded into the surrounding area while maintaining a store there and remodeling the small motel.
“We were fresh to the area and we grew into it,” Alice said. “But this became home to us and we are glad to see it continue to grow like it has.”
Despite the constant cycle of painting and repair, they reminisced on how changes were working their way into the area.
“I miss how we had the college kids working there or the men who would come through on their way home to pick up a six pack or a gallon of milk,” Pedro Pantoja said. “We were planning for the future and the changes that were coming. We were offering in-store credit for our customers and keeping special orders, but we were also making sure that some of that land became developed right and went into making the area more vibrant.”
Part of the land the Pantojas purchased later became a strip mall. Other tracts were transformed more recently into the 184-unit Terrace Green apartment complex. The Pantoja’s country store was sold in 1985 to the state to make room for widening Seventh Street. At that point, the couple moved the existing motel rooms to the back part of the lot and converted them into five stand-alone apartments.
“We took pride in the appearance of those apartments and we made sure that grounds and the apartments were kept in the best order,” Alice Pantoja said. “That was the compliment that was always paid to us: That the open land looked like a park. Compared to what that hotel looked like originally, it was so different.”
Alice and Pedro Pantoja, both in their 70s, have remained active in Duquesne and Joplin. Alice is the former mayor of Duquesne and currently sits on several local boards, while Pedro’s international marketing and consulting work for various chemical companies has taken him to more than 90 countries in the past 40 years.