CARTERVILLE, Mo. — A tavern that’s been a fixture in the Carterville community for more than a century has been resurrected under new ownership in the wake of a destructive fire in 2017.
Shirley’s Neighborhood Tavern, 321 W. Main St., will officially reopen Friday after new owners, Courtney and Brock Powell, spent seven months reconstructing the building. An early morning fire in December 2017 extensively damaged the interior.
“I was pretty devastated after the fire because there were lots of memories in this bar for me and my family, friends,” Courtney Powell said.
The 2017 incident marks the third fire at the establishment, according to previous owner Ashley Wise. The fire was ruled accidental by officials, and Wise said they initially planned on rebuilding but decided to focus more on family.
The Powells purchased the business in July 2018 with hopes of restoring it to its original glory.
“It was a total loss in there,” Courtney Powell said. “When we took on the project after we bought it, we were told that we might have to take it down, but it was a risk we were willing to take. The structure of it was decent, but when we got it all gutted down to the studs, we had to rebuild things like the entire back wall.”
Located on historic Route 66, the bar is considered a local icon, dating back to 1916. The establishment had been called many names over the years, including Budweise Bar, which had dirt flooring, and Frosty’s, which for 20 years served only male patrons.
The Powells plan to keep the signature name, Shirley’s Tavern, and will hold a ribbon-cutting for the public at noon Friday in celebration of its revival. The tavern's namesake, Shirley Almandinger, of Carterville, opened the business under her name in 1983.
Renovation projects are nothing new for the Powells, who own a local construction company, Powells' Construction and Flooring. Courtney Powell said they’ve been able to complete the reconstruction themselves, which has helped with their overall budget.
“We had friends and family help,” she said. “We haven’t had to hire anyone out, so we did save tremendously. We bought the building for a very fair price because of the shape that it was in.”
During the renovation process, the owners said, they hauled over 27,000 pounds of debris from the inside of the building. The original wooden bar was recovered from the charred interior, and Courtney Powell was able to sand it down, refurbish it and use it inside the new establishment.
“I put in about 40 hours of just re-staining it,” she said. “The guys originally wanted to throw it in the trash, and I told them, ‘No. That’s my project.’”
Courtney Powell said she also has a special space in the bar called “The Memorabilia Wall,” on which some of the items and signs left behind from the fire are displayed. Thus far, the wall is filled with framed photographs, a plaque and a charred beer tap system.
“We’re hoping to give the community a place to go back to,” she said. “Carterville doesn’t have much to offer, and our dream is to bring a lot more to the city. Our main mission is to revitalize Carterville.”
A kitchen has been built, but food will not be served until around football season. The bar will start off serving beer, wine and malts.