The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 25, 2012

Wally Kennedy: Jim Bob’s owners exemplify Joplin spirit

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies have been frequent occurrences in Joplin of late as businesses reopen from last year’s storm.

But there was something different — maybe even special — when the ribbon was cut Friday for Jim Bob’s Steaks & Ribs, 3129 E. John Q. Hammons Blvd.

Gov. Jay Nixon was there as were dozens of other well-wishers from the community, but what made it special is what the owners, Steve and Stacey Gamble, have been through to get their feet back under them.

Most people probably think that the opening or reopening of a restaurant is no big deal. What’s so difficult about turning on the lights, hiring some people and buying the ingredients for whatever it is you’re going to sell? Well, if you think it’s that easy, you would probably be among the hundreds of restaurants nationwide that open and close virtually overnight because the degree of difficulty was woefully underestimated.

The Gambles had planned to open their restaurant earlier this month, but a little technicality got in the way. Their liquor license is for an establishment in Jasper County. Their new restaurant is in Newton County. So they had to reapply for their license. That takes time. That’s just one of the little things they have had to deal with this month to relaunch their restaurant.

The people who were on hand to see the ribbon-cutting caught a glimpse of something you don’t see very often. Politicians like to portray to voters that they are empathetic to the needs of their constituents, but rarely do you actually see it. That happened on Friday as Gov. Nixon recounted a moment he had with the Gambles after the tornado.

The story goes like this: The governor and the Gambles were standing on the lot of the former restaurant at 2040 S. Range Line Road. This was a month after the tornado.

“Their entire business is gone,’’ Nixon said. “Up drives their mailman and personally delivers their mail to them because their mailbox is gone. The mailman asks: ‘Where’s my bass?’’’

Puzzled by the question, Nixon later asked the Gambles: “What’s that all about?’’

He was told the mailman caught two huge largemouths and had them mounted, but that his wife did not want them displayed on the walls of their home. So, he gave them to the Gambles to be displayed in their restaurant. On Friday, Nixon got to see those tornado-tattered fish when he toured the interior of the restaurant. They inspired some hearty laughs.

More importantly, it was what Nixon said about the Gambles, how he has been inspired by them and how they are emblematic of Joplin. He said, “Your business, everything that you have worked for, is wiped out. The tornado may have taken your home, your business, your school and your hospital, but you don’t leave. It would have been a lot easier not to come back. But it’s that stick-to-it-iveness that has inspired America and the world.’’

Nixon’s detractors will tell you that he has done what a governor is supposed to do in a time of crisis — nothing more, nothing less. I think you would have a hard time convincing the Gambles of that.

I know when the restaurant is opening. The Gambles would like to have a soft opening to work the kinks out. Though other news organizations have reported the opening date — and that’s fine — I’m just going to tell you it is opening this week, out of deference and respect for the Gambles.

In fact, I would encourage you to visit the restaurant this weekend. I say that because I think you want to have the kind of Jim Bob’s experience you have had in the past. I know that’s what the Gambles want. So, give ’em a break. It’s the least we can do.

If you have news about something happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

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