The story goes something like this:
It was a Tuesday night some 22 years ago at Hidden Acres Supper Club, 2800 S. Range Line Road. The restaurant, which was known for its steaks, fried chicken, seafood and fried onion rings, had several reservations that night.
The owner, Terry Wilson, a prominent figure in Joplin’s sports world, was preparing for business as usual. No one that night knew it would be the last night for Hidden Acres. When several key employees failed to show up for work, Wilson threw in the towel. He had his fill of the restaurant business. He went to the front door and locked it at 7 p.m.
Hidden Acres would never reopen. Everything was left exactly as it was: the napkins, the plates, the silverware.
Wilson inherited the restaurant from his father, Norman Wilson, who moved his family to Joplin from Wichita, Kansas, in 1947. He would soon open Hidden Acres — Joplin’s Friendly Supper Club — along the original two-lane version of Range Line Road. Hidden Acres, with its red patent leather booths and striking wallpaper, would become one of Joplin’s premier dance and supper clubs in the 1950s. It was sophisticated for its time. It was a place to see people and be seen.
It was a place where deals were made with a martini toast and a handshake.
In those days, you could get a martini for 60 cents and a 14-ounce steak dinner with a salad and your choice of potatoes for $2.95. You could order a lobster tail for $2.75, but it took 40 minutes to prepare. A large side of ribs would cost you $2.
Wilson’s son, Terry, would become a four-sport letterman at Joplin High School. He would play football for the University of Missouri. He would sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. He also was a boxer, a golfer and excellent marksman. His buddies included Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford.
Before Terry Wilson’s death at age 85 on June 24, 2020, Hunter Perry, owner of the new Realty One Group in Joplin, had talked to him about buying the property.
“I wanted to buy the property 10 years ago, but Terry told me he would not sell it to me because he would not let me get into the restaurant business,” Perry said. “He told me, ‘You can’t rely on people anymore.’ That’s how he felt.”
Perry also said that Wilson had stipulated that no purchaser of the property could destroy the building. When Wilson died, the surviving grandchildren put no such restriction on the property. Perry had been looking at a downtown property for his real estate office, but the renovation would prove to cost more than expected. When he looked at the size of the Hidden Acres property, a vision for the property became clear that would preserve the restaurant.
“As I was pulling away from the property, I realized I could have an office next door and bring Hidden Acres back to life at the same time,” he said. Perry closed the deal, beating out four other offers in which the property would have been cleared for storage units.
Perry said he hopes that ground will be broken for his new office in a couple of weeks. He has applied for construction permits with the city. The restoration of the restaurant will take place over a period of three years. He has already consulted with a company that specializes in restoring patent leather. He said he’s not sure whether the wallpaper can be saved.
“I want to take it back to the way it was,” Perry said. “The plan is to open an event center first without a kitchen. These will be catered events. We will then reopen the restaurant with a new kitchen. I think I have even found a chef.”
In the meantime, Perry plans to spend his free time working to clean and upgrade the property.
“Know anyone who might be interested in buying some aged bottles of A1 Steak Sauce? These bottles are 22 years old,” Perry said. “I think I could corner the market for aged steak sauce if there is such a thing. When I say Terry left everything as it was, that’s exactly what happened. Everything is still there.”