By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
GALENA, Kan. —
After six months of renovations, the owner of a popular Route 66 landmark is looking forward to reopening later this month.
Cars on the Route — formerly called Four Women on the Route — has been closed since October so that crews could do what owner Renee Charles described as “pretty heavy-duty, full-scale renovations.”
“We ripped out everything,” she said.
The eatery and souvenir shop, located at the corner of Old Route 66 and Main Street in Galena, is a former Kan-O-Tex service station. Four women — Charles, Betty Courtney, Melba Rigg and Judy Courtney — purchased and overhauled it in 2006.
They were hoping it would help with the rebirth of the town, and it did. About 4,000 visitors, foreign and domestic, stopped there last year, said Charles, who is active in Route 66 preservation and also serves as the Galena city clerk.
In recent years, she took over ownership of the business with a silent partner, and she decided last fall that the building “needed a bit of face-lifting.”
Rigg will continue to help operate the business.
When it is finished, Cars on the Route will feature new restrooms, new concrete, a new asphalt parking lot, an improved kitchen, a revised menu, neon signs, and an expanded section of memorabilia and Route 66 items for sale.
Out front, Charles is planning additional cars that play off the Pixar movies “Cars” and “Cars 2.” One of the business’s biggest draws has been Tow Tater, a rusty, antique tow truck from which “Cars” director John Lasseter drew inspiration for the character Tow Mater. Schoolchildren and other visitors often pose for photos by the truck.
“He’s getting company,” Charles said. “We are going to get a car like Sheriff’s, Red the Fire Truck will get a face-lift, and we are working on a Doc Hudson.”
While tourist season began picking up about the first or second week of April, Charles said the business’s closure didn’t deter any groups from stopping.
“We still had them stop to take pictures and look,” she said. “We had 68 Australians on motorcycles and several bus tours, including one from England.”
WORK ALSO HAS BEEN UNDER WAY across the street on the northeast corner of the intersection, where developer Brian Jordan has been restoring a historic bordello. Renee Charles said she hopes the two newly renovated sites will be mutually beneficial when it comes to attracting tourists.