By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
As shopping centers go, the Bel-Aire at the northwest corner of 20th Street and Range Line Road was a cut above. It’s owners were not reluctant to invest in that property, and it showed.
The Bel-Aire appears to have been well built. With the exception of its west wall, which took the brunt in the May 22 tornado, it held up pretty well. A lot of people rode out the storm in interior rooms and restrooms at places like Cherry Berry and Cici’s Pizza. They walked away without significant injuries.
To see it come down piece by piece has been sad. It’s not clear yet what the future holds for that site, but I can tell you that Cici’s is planning to come back.
Paul Hadley, regional manager with Cici’s in Springfield, said, “We are rebuilding and we hope to do it in the same place, if we can. Right now, we’re playing the waiting game.’’
Hadley said the restaurant was busy the night of the tornado and that everyone inside “was kept safe. Nobody got hurt.’’
There were several businesses in that shopping center. Among them were Radio Shack, Red Wing Shoes, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, and Catherine’s. Red Wing Shoes has relocated to a shopping center across from Applebee’s. The craft store found a new home at Northpark Mall. There’s no word yet on the future of Catherine’s or Cherry Berry.
Like Cherry Berry, the Radio Shack was a new storefront in that shopping center, having moved there earlier this year from Northpark Mall. It had been open for only a few weeks.
What’s interesting about the Radio Shack stores in Joplin is that they are part of what could be the oldest Radio Shack franchise in the world that has been under continuous ownership by the same family. The first Radio Shack was opened here by Ron Jones in 1968.
I talked with Fran Jones, who runs the Radio Shack at Seventh Street and Maiden Lane, about their plans for the Bel-Aire store. She said no decisions have been made.
She said the store closed at 5 p.m. the day of the tornado. Two people were in the store when it closed. One of them was a grandson.
“The people at Cherry Berry went into their restrooms. Our guys would have probably gone to the back wall, which would not have been a good place to go,’’ she said. “It’s fortunate they were not there.’’
As predicted, Pitcher’s Sports Bar and Grill, 3320 S. Range Line Road, had a big opening about three weeks ago. There have been nights at Joplin’s newest watering hole when there has not been an open chair in the place.
I’m told that it’s busiest between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m. So be prepared if you go there during those hours.
“We’re a nonsmoking facility,’’ said Mike Meyer, general manager. “It’s a huge hit. We have had more positive comments about that than anything.’’
I’m anxious to go there and try the food. I know the chef, and he’s a good chef.
Pitcher’s, which is connected to LaQuinta Inn, is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday. It’s open until 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Last Monday, AT&T opened a new storefront in the Range Line Marketplace shopping center near 24th Street and South Range Line Road.
The store opened in a space previously occupied by Petsway, which had closed before the tornado struck. The structure sustained some damage from the storm.
If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, dial 623-3480, ext. 7250; send an email to email@example.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 623-8598.