CARTERVILLE, Mo. — One of Missouri’s popular Route 66 attractions — a small museum dedicated to Superman but that also sells red, yellow and blue ice cream — will soon be reopened under new ownership.
Chris and Andrea Briley, of Joplin, recently purchased Supertam on 66 from Larry and Barbara Tamminen, after the latter couple closed the business on May 8.
First opening in the summer of 2006, Supertam became a favorite on the highway known as America’s Main Street.
“When I started teaching special education at Carterville elementary school six years ago, one of the first things I was told about was Supertam,” Andrea Briley said. “The summer before I began teaching there, I stopped in with my children and had some ice cream, but, more importantly, my children and I had a great visit with Larry. We were there for ice cream but left with a ‘welcome to Carterville’ feeling.”
After it closed, she was no longer able to take her third and fourth grade students on walking field trips to Supertam. and driving past the shop and seeing the “for sale” sign out front “broke my heart,” Andrea Briley said.
So she decided to do something about that.
“I called Chris and said, ‘Supertam Ice Cream in Carterville is for sale.’ I’m not sure he shared my enthusiasm at that moment — he had never been there — but after talking with (Barbara Tamminen) and scheduling a showing a few days later, he was also very excited, and we were immediately dreaming of what we could do if we were able to purchase it,” she said.
The biggest decision the new owners have made concerning the attraction is that they’ll make no dramatic changes whatsoever — there won’t be a name change, the same flavors of ice cream will be served, and the “Kryptonite Delight” drink can still be purchased over the counter. Most importantly, Larry Tamminen’s Superman memorabilia collection — consisting of 2,600 pieces collected over a span of nearly 40 years — will continue to line the walls. The collection includes vintage toys, figurines, activity books, board games, newspaper clippings and autographs. There’s even a Vietnam War-era poster with Superman flashing a peace sign, as well as some Supergirl and Justice League items.
“We were happy to have found a couple who wants to keep the parlor exactly the same,” Barbara Tamminen said Monday on behalf of her husband, a former board member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri. “We are glad (Andrea and Chris) are excited about the travelers and Route 66.”
“I called and spoke to Barbara earlier this summer; I felt a connection right away,” Andrea Briley said. “Their vision for their shop aligned with what Chris and I had discussed. We have big plans for this place, and Larry and Barbara were pleased to find like-minded people who would keep this dream of theirs alive.”
The new owners want to increase the parlor’s exposure to Route 66 travelers as well as incorporate the trolley car and pavilion on the property into the attraction.
“After reviewing the guest books, it became apparent that Supertam held a special place for Route 66 travelers. The outpouring of support, from literally around the world since the (purchase) announcement, has been amazing,” Andrea Briley said.
The ice cream parlor inside Carterville, itself a tiny dot on most road maps, is heavily advertised in Route 66-themed publications in other countries, particularly China. Over the years, Larry Tamminen has catered more to Chinese visitors and families driving along Route 66 than from any other country. The museum was even featured in a Chinese documentary about the Mother Road.
A glance through Larry Tamminen’s various guest books from over the years also reveals thank-you messages from England, France, Spain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Russia and elsewhere.
While carrying on the legacy of Supertam is important for Route 66 and its visitors from around the world, Andrea Briley said she and her husband primarily purchased the establishment for people living closer to home.
“This is for the Carterville community,” she said. “The town needs Supertam as much as it needs the town.”