The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

August 27, 2011

Wally Kennedy: Flocks expected for Chick-fil-A opening

JOPLIN, Mo. — The stocking of the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line Road is under way in preparation for a grand reopening on Thursday.

The restaurant was among 25 or so eateries on Main Street and Range Line Road that were destroyed by the May 22 tornado. What is remarkable about the reconstruction of this restaurant is that the footings were poured on June 18.

Tammie Felker, marketing director for Chick-fil-A, said the new restaurant will be a little wider and a little longer that its predecessor. It will have the latest kitchen design for Chick-fil-A.

I am told the new design makes it possible for the restaurant to handle virtually any customer load. That could prove to be a good thing on Thursday. As I recall, the first opening of a Chick-fil-A at that site caused a traffic jam that seemed to last for weeks.

Another new feature could also help. The restaurant will have dual drive-through lanes. That will save time and money in terms of wasted fuel waiting in a queue.

This opening is a big deal. Dan Cathy, president of the company, will arrive in Joplin on Tuesday to visit the restaurant and its employees. On Wednesday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be staged and Joplin’s mayor will read a proclamation proclaiming Sept. 1 as “Chick-fil-A Day in Joplin.’’

To make sure the opening goes smoothly, experienced employees from other Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country will be on hand to help. They call these people “grand openers.” They can stay up to two weeks in the town where the opening is taking place.

The restaurant was not open when the tornado struck.

Westco to return

The Westco store at 1717 S. Range Line Road is coming back and will return to its niche next to Academy Sports.

Rudy Schultz, an owner of Westco, based in Miami, Okla., said he spoke last week to the landlord who owns the building that housed Academy and Westco. He said the landlord told him the floor plan for the new store is ready and that construction could begin next month.

If the project gets a green light, Schultz said the walls will take 120 to 150 days to erect. The interior work would take place after that. He estimates it could be six to seven months before the new store opens.

The Westco store was getting ready to close at 6 p.m. when the tornado hit. Two employees took shelter under a built-in desk at the rear of the store. They were not injured.

Schultz said a customer had been in the store moments before the tornado struck. He told the employees that a storm was coming. Schultz said they later learned that the customer managed to escape the tornado’s fury.

Still checking

Not a week goes by that I do not hear from readers asking about the status of restaurants that were affected by the storm.

I’m checking on King’s Palace, the Great Wall and El Vaquero, among others. If someone knows something about the status of any of these restaurants, please feel free to call me or send an email.

Correction

In the Aug. 7 column about the history of Southtown Sporting Goods, it was incorrectly reported that Pete Aggus, the founder of Southtown, had purchased the old Consumer’s Market from Frank Baldwin. Aggus purchased the old market building from Norman Owens and John Freeman, who had bought the building from Baldwin. Owens and Freeman went on to build a new Consumer’s Market at 31st and Main streets. That building is now a U.S. post office.

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

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Tornado: Columns