Nearly a year after tornado Range Line Road businesses make remarkable recovery
Joplin's busiest road, Range Line, was one of the hardest hit areas on May 22. An estimated 71 businesses on Range Line were affected, whether they were wiped out or just forced to close for a few days while they repaired damage.
It's been nearly a year and the businesses on Range Line Road have made a remarkable recovery.
"What was really surprising was how quickly some of them did come back, I mean literally within a few months," says Joplin Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian.
"I'm impressed, it's craziness how quickly things are going back," says Joplin resident Brandi Matthews.
Soon after the storm, locally owned and chain companies made the decision to rebuild in Joplin.
"We heard that very early on, that they did want to stay, that they weren't going to leave, which was a very positive statement on their part," says O'Brian.
A total of 49 businesses are up and running. About half relocated, some plan to rebuild on their original site in the future.
The other half rebuilt at their same location, including Macadoodles, Walgreens, Chick Fillet and Home Depot.
"Home Depot, within a week had already put down their tent yard and then rebuilt their store," says O'Brian.
It's just us doing our part to help the city get back on their feet," says Home Depot manager Steve Cope. "A lot of things that we sell and carry here in the store are what they're needing."
But Home Depot's re-opening was bittersweet.
The memories of the night it was destroyed and the seven people who lost their lives inside, including associate Dean Wells.
"As the anniversary date comes closer, you know, we all are very emotional about it," Cope says. "We dealt with a lot of things, you know, just like the rest of the city did, and our hearts go out to those who lost their lives."
Eleven more businesses have plans to rebuild. A few of those are in the process right now, including Frank Fletcher Nissan and IHOP.
"We're doing really good, we're actually ahead of schedule," says Lorenzo Soto, the superintendent of IHOP Construction. "We're aiming for July 23rd to be finished and turn in the project."
But progress isn't taking place everywhere. There are still several empty lots scattered across Range Line, including the lot where Pizza By Stout once stood for more than 30 years.
"We've heard from a number, not many, but a number of businesses that say they're not coming back any place in the community and for some it's just not wanting to start over again," says O'Brian.
Seven Range Line businesses, including Lube 'N Oil Inc. and Arby's will not be coming back. Long John Silvers, Burger King and two other businesses are still unsure.
What is for sure is that each grand opening and ribbon cutting, brings a sense of accomplishment and hope, feelings much needed even a year after the storm.
"I think everyone is watching that and each one of those is a victory, that people feel, yes, Joplin is rebounding, Joplin is recovering and Joplin's going to be back stronger than ever," says O'Brian.
O'Brian tells us Range Line Road recovery will not stop anytime soon. He expects the progress to continue for the next few years, and not just with businesses affected by the tornado rebuilding, but with new growth from new businesses who have now taken an interest in Joplin.
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