The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 30, 2011

Wally Kennedy: IHOP may offer lesson in survival

By Wally Kennedy
The Joplin Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — The story of what happened at the IHOP restaurant at 2117 S. Range Line Road the night of the tornado has been told several times.

Close to 40 people rode out the storm in the restaurant’s kitchen and freezer. Among them was Peg Nichols, Olathe, Kan., who was there with a group of nine people to celebrate her granddaughter’s graduation.

Nichols recalls hunkering down under a stainless steel preparation table in the kitchen.

“There were two or three layers of us. It was all of us together,’’ she said. “It seemed to take forever, hearing things breaking and being torn apart.’’

People who sought shelter in the kitchen survived. That got Nichols to thinking: Why did the IHOP hold up as well as it did while other buildings around it were decimated?

“I think the design of the building and the quality of the construction is what saved us,’’ she said. “It had short interior walls and corner bracing.

“The newer IHOPs where I live do not have that design. The dining area is more open. I hope that if they do rebuild, it will be in the old design,’’ she said.

Nichols has gone so far as to contact corporate management of IHOP to make sure they understand how well the Range Line IHOP weathered the storm.

On Thursday, I called the corporate office to find out what IHOP is planning to do with its Range Line property. A spokeswoman said, “We are definitely coming back. We will be reopening in nine months.’’

Then I told her about Nichols’ observation about the design of the building and how she wanted that message conveyed to upper management. The woman said: “I am typing an email as we speak.’’

It was refreshing to see someone make an effort and take the time to get a message up the ladder on behalf of a loyal customer. Well done, IHOP.

It’s also refreshing to see a perceptive customer insist that her voice be heard.

The pub

Murphy’s Irish Pub, 2214 S. Main St., is coming back thanks to the tenacity of its owner, Mark Wood, and a wee bit of Irish luck.

Wood said Murphy’s was woefully underinsured and that rebuilding seemed impossible until a series of events turned the situation in his favor. His son-in-law had set up an order for insulated concrete forms to build a wall behind his house. ICFs are like Styrofoam Legos that you stack up like blocks and fill with concrete to build a wall.

When the order was delayed by the storm, Wood’s son-in-law got a call from the company about the status of his project. The company noticed that the order was bound for Joplin. During that conversation, the questionable status of Murphy’s was explained.

That led to a call to Wood from the North American distribution executive with BuildBlock Inc. One thing led to another. BuildBlock now plans to help rebuild Murphy’s and use it as a marketing opportunity to showcase the ICFs. The company has hooked Wood up with two men from Arizona who are experienced with the product. They have agreed to stage a demonstration class to show area builders and homeowners how the product works.

Two things impressed Wood about the product — it’s insulation value and its ability to withstand 250 mph winds.

Wood then learned from BuildBlock that O’Brien Concrete, based in Fort Scott, Kan., agreed to donate the concrete. Wood was unfamiliar with the company.

Wood said, “BuildBlock told me: ‘They know you and they know the bar. They want to help their Irish brother out and they want to donate the concrete.’ I’ll have four walls and a roof.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s enough to get me over the hump to get back in business,’’ Wood said.

Murphy’s started out as Tate’s 19th Hole in 1977. It will be reconstructed using the original drawings on the same concrete pad.

The tornado reduced Murphy’s to a pile of rubble. All that remained standing were 17 concrete blocks at the building’s northeast corner.

Wood said no one was at the bar when the tornado hit. Had there been someone there, the safest place to have been would have been under one of the bar’s two pool tables.

“I would suggest if a person is caught in a storm like that, they should get under the pool table. The tables moved a foot at most,’’ he said. “Of course, the new building will be a lot safer. It will be solid concrete that is 6 inches thick.’’

Only one thing was lost from the bar that Wood will miss.

“It was an old Budweiser clock that had been there since the place was built. It was 3 feet long and featured the Clydesdales pulling a wagon. It’s kind of sad that I lost that. The rest of it was just stuff.’’

Heavy Heart

It is with heavy heart that I must tell you that Pizza by Stout will be a casualty of the tornado. It is not coming back.

Joy Stout, who owned the business that was started by her mother and father, Betty and Willard Stout, said a number of factors contributed to the decision to not reopen. It was a decision that was painful to make, she said.

“It’s like we have lost a member of the family,’’ she said.

The restaurant employed about 30 to 35 people.

Pizza by Stout opened in July 1978 in a small shopping center near East 20th Street and Rhode Island Avenue. It moved to Range Line where it would become Joplin’s signature pizza restaurant. It will be missed.


The now-demolished Pizza Inn at 11th Street and Range Line was incorrectly identified in last week’s column.

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