Despite persistent encounters with rain, the new Domino's Pizza restaurant under construction at the northwest corner of Seventh and Madison streets in Webb City is progressing ahead of schedule. The restaurant is relocating from a shopping center at 10th and Madison streets.

Emily Elwell, who owns the franchise with her husband, Dan, said the lease with the shopping center will expire in November.

"If things keep going like they are, we might have an opening in September,'' she said. "If it were to happen next month, it would mark our 10-year anniversary.''

The Elwell story is a remarkable one. They both started as part-time employees with Domino's and worked their way up. He was a delivery driver. She took orders over the phone. Eventually, they would become managers of their own stores, competing against each other. After they married, they decided to buy a store in Nevada. They now own 11 Domino's Pizza locations in the area, including new stores in Neosho as well as Pittsburg and Parsons in Kansas.

In 2018 and 2019, their franchise received the gold award for being among the top 25 Domino's franchises in the nation. The company's annual review takes into account sales, pizza making, customer service and operation quality. Elwell has worked with the company's national training team, which interviews employees, managers and supervisors to help define the commonalities among the top-performing stores.

The company was so impressed with what the Elwells have achieved that she was featured in a national Domino's commercial that aired from September through December of last year. The commercial, filmed in Fort Scott, Kansas, and Webb City, emphasized how Domino's will go out of its way to make sure you get the pizza you ordered.

The pandemic, when it unfolded three month ago, caused a slight decrease in pizza sales. It has rebounded since then with a huge uptick. Nine of the 11 Domino's locations operated by the Elwells have pickup windows for appropriate social distancing.

The new store in Webb City is being constructed south of the new Dollar Tree store at 610 S. Madison St. North of the Dollar Tree is the new Dairy Queen.

Elwell said the new store will feature a conference and training room for employees of D&E Pizza LLC, the company formed by the Elwells. The lobby will contain a few dine-in seats.

Census update

The U.S. Census, which takes place every 10 years, is moving along in some communities and at a faster rate in some than others.

The census in Joplin has been slowed by COVID-19. The U.S. participation rate is 60.5%. The Missouri rate is 60.8%. In Joplin, it's 62.1%. In one Joplin census tract, the participation count was 71%, but others were as low as 48.1%, according to a census official.

That compares to response rates of 77.3% in Carl Junction and 67.6% in Webb City. Come on, Joplin, get with it. There's too much at stake.

Closing

Restaurants come and go. Some leave lasting memories, while others are merely a flash in the pan.

The end of Instant Karma, which opened 10 years ago at 527 S. Main St., is sad news indeed. The success of Instant Karma in downtown Joplin was an inspiration to all at a time when downtown Joplin needed to be inspired by a success story. We can thank the vision and dedication of Jason and Suzanne Miller and their employees for that.

I'll never forget my first visit to Instant Karma. I ordered the Jasper hot dog with blue cheese coleslaw on the side. My first impression was: This is different and I like it. My last experience there was a celebration for former Globe Editor Carol Stark. A whole bunch of us who had worked with Stark over the years gathered there for a memorable meal that lasted well into the night.

The folks at Instant Karma took care of us that night. Thanks again for a wonderful evening.

If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

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

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