A Joplin businesswoman who believed in her town and knew her customers by name has retired.

Brigitte Pippin and her husband, Ken, rebuilt Southtown Cleaners, 2630 S. Main St., after the 2011 tornado.

"We came back after Dude's doughnut shop and the service station next to us,'' she said.

To do that, she had to take out loans to refinance the reconstruction and purchase of more modern equipment.

"I had an SBA loan, another loan and a loan from the Joplin Tomorrow Fund,'' she said. "After I had spent all of this money and hired back all of the people who worked for us, I thought to myself: What if the people don't come back? What if they are going somewhere else now? The pressure was really on.''

She soon would get the answers to those questions. In preparation for a Monday opening, the shop announced it was accepting clothes for cleaning on the Friday before. The shop got so many clothes that it was all hands on deck that weekend to get ready for the opening.

"We were swamped. I was so relieved,'' she said. "We had a lot of loyal customers. We were so thankful for that.''

About the redevelopment of the South Main Street tornado zone, she said, "It's coming along slowly. I was hoping that it would have been faster than it has been. I was hoping that Braum's would get something going.''

Braum's acquired the northwest corner of 26th and Main Street after the tornado and has filed construction plans with the city but has not moved on the property.

Southtown Cleaners and several Ryan's Cleaners in the Joplin area have been purchased by Brad Loveland. The Ryan's Cleaners on East 32nd Street has closed.

Pippin, a classic car enthusiast, said it was time to move on after 32 years with Southtown and spend more time on her hobby. If you like to go to classic car shows, chances will be pretty good now that you will see the Pippins there. They have their weekends back.

New owner

Stealth Creative, a relatively new marketing firm in Joplin, moved from an office on East Seventh Street to the fifth floor of the Gryphon Building, 1027 S. Main St., at the start of the year.

Garett Jeffries, managing director, said Stealth Creative purchased Choice Marketing in January 2019 after the death of owner Karen Plott with the intent of carrying on her marketing legacy.

"We viewed it as a great opportunity because we matched with their client mix well, and more importantly, the people who worked at Choice are great people who immediately fit in with the Stealth culture,'' Jeffries said. "Additionally, the Joplin area is a good strategic foothold for local marketing needs as well as regionally for the Tulsa, Springfield and Kansas City markets.''

Stealth helps its clients find strategic direction through a cycle of research, problem solving and execution. The company specializes in advertising, media buying, direct mail, research, social media and digital.

Stealth has about 45 employees located in Joplin and St. Louis but also has satellite offices in Rolla, Denver and Orlando.

Stealth has been developing new clients in the Joplin market and region over the past year.

"Now that we have offices on both sides of the state, we add a lot of value for clients with a presence across Missouri,'' Jeffries said.

Closing update

It appears that the Sears store at Northpark Mall will close on Feb. 2.

There are still deals to be had, but the inventory is getting noticeably smaller.

Wally Kennedy is a reporter and columnist for The Joplin Globe.

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