I seldom get to chat with many of you out there on Route 66. I know a subject that comes up many times in conversation is being apart of Route 66. Lots of roadies and tourists get hooked on route 66 and feel compelled to commit themselves to the road by taking on the role of being a business owner on Route 66. I think that's great. Route 66 needs more people to bring more new business to add to the landscape. As a business owner myself, I would caution anyone against making snap judgements on starting something with brick and mortar on the mother road. Although it may be a ticket to instant popularity and fanfare, its a daunting task to wake up to everyday. It is a huge commitment that requires lots of energy, focus, and resources. And guess what.... making big stacks of cash probably isn't in the cards. It's a passion. Your payoff is mostly spiritual I believe.
Even though I'm not remotely close to throwing in the keys to the adventure truck, and putting my paint covered stencils on the shelf. - Hypothetically, there are a few places I wouldn't mind restoring or improving at the least. Should I share with you just a couple of places that have tempted me into becoming a static fixture on the road??? Sure why not.... maybe you or someone else will be inspired to take on managing or organizing a restoration of one of these great places.
FIRST on my list:
THE LUNA CAFE! - Yes! This place oozes potential and screams, "Somebody put me on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer at the wheel!!! - PLEASE!" The management, seems to be blind to what's in front of them, even though significant efforts on the behalf of the Missouri and Illinois Route 66 Associations raised money to restore and recreate the beautiful neon signs for this old, "joint." Without exaggeration, myself and some of my other Roadie gang have all met the same proverbial, "Record Scratch" when we walk through the door. Seriously, nearly every one of the 5 people that work or occupy the place on a near daily basis stop what they are doing, smoking, or what they are rambling about to give you a thorough judgmental once-over before going back to their vices. It doesn't, or at least hasn't for me got any better once crossing the threshold and slipping through the hurdles of gazing eyes from the patrons. Taking a seat and looking around prompts the very frank barmaid to indicate to you that they do not accept nor appreciate any form of payment other than cash - This all before she even thinks about asking you what she can help with. WOW - what a welcome. Even if you did shower her (and she needs one) with confetti comprised of bills with Abe Lincoln you will have to beg her attention for any subsequent beverages. Hungry? Well guess what, she "aint cookin nuttin." Even though they have a kitchen, she's not about to lower herself to serving up a frozen pizza to some uppity tourist. Quick Note: Most 66 tourists carry lots of cash and are very eager to spend it during the eastern portions of the trip as they are just embarking on their journey.
I know you think I'm trying to paint a picture here that may seem slightly biased or exaggerated, but this experience has been virtually 100% duplicated personally for me the 3 times I attempted to patronize The Luna Cafe. So here's how I see The Luna through the eyes of an entrepreneur: The Luna sits smack dab in the middle of blue collar, industrial area of granite city, but not too far away from the limits of Edwardsville, Illinois. Lots of hungry, thirsty workers are on tap for lunch and after work get togethers Monday through Friday. What other sources of income are around??? How about a giant college less than 5 miles away! Yes.... Students from SIUE that love to be social are just around the corner. To top it off, The Luna Cafe sits right on top of an alignment of Route 66. This particular alignment is heavily traveled although there's not a whole lot of draw to it.... besides just the little ole Chain of Rocks Bridge. - You know that bridge everyone traveling Route 66 has to see? Yep. What do you find going to the Chain of Rocks bridge almost daily during the travel season? You may have guessed tours. That's RIGHT!!! - Lots of motor tours and bike tours hosting people from all over the world are coming right past The Luna Cafe.... past it, not stopping at it.
For Pete's sake! - The bold, beautiful neon arrangements beacon people from interstate at night time. You can't miss this place. All it needs is a thorough cleaning (very thorough), some owners or management that understand what they are sitting on, and some innovative themes and hospitality put into place designed to draw both locals and tourists. I could go on and on.... I think I have mentioned enough to provoke a full on intervention here. - At least I hope. #JonTaffer #BarRescue
SECOND on my list:
This Old Gas Station just east of Hazelgreen, MO. I think its a Phillips 66 or maybe a Texaco. One of you old dogs jump in there and let me and the other couple dozen readers know. For you fellow road geeks, here are the coordinates: 37.766739,-92.418352
I remember seeing this place lit up when I was a child, riding in my parent's car on one of our many trips back and forth from Forsyth, MO. I was always enamored by the Googie Style canopies that the old Phillips gas stations were famous for in the 1960s. You don't see too many surviving today and this station has one... well bits and pieces. I'm not sure if its too late.... Speaking of which, I recall discussing with Melba Rigg how I thought there was no hope trying to save the old brothel across the street from Cars On The Route. BOY! - Did a lot of effort, passion, and truck loads of money prove me wrong! I'm convinced. If the old brothel in Galena, KS can be saved and put back to serive (no more women for hire), surely somebody can put to use this old gas station that literally sits on both Route 66 and I44.
It would just be too cool to see this place as a museum or some sort of interpretive center designed to pique the interest of the average interstate traveler' maybe even plant a Route 66 seed in a few of them ;) . There's also an old cafe or restaurant right next door. There's not much close to here and the town of Hazelgreen, MO nearly eradicated when I44 was put right through town. This would be a great way to stop people and have them put a little bit of money into the local economy.
Hopefully, my kids (oldest daughter pictured in the bay with me) will be able to pass by this place and explore it, or better yet, patronize it.
LAST (on this blog post) but not really last on my personal list: The EPIC, Diamonds Restaurant / Tri County Truck Stop
I can't say enough about the potential this place has. It has I44 and Route 66 exposure. Its big enough to accommodate the largest tour groups. It's built like a brick.... well you know. You could do exhibits, mini theaters, cafes, gift shops, and whatever else tourists want to see. All sorts of great events could be had here. This could be that first great stop out of St. Louis. Really, between Staunton, Illinois and Cuba Missouri, there's not a BIG attraction that makes every tourist stop and check things out. I could really see this place emulating the museum in Clinton, OK.
It needs big bucks though.... just to purchase the place. Rehabbing it would be another endeavor. Somewhere out there amongst us roadies is someone lurking about with the drive and resources to make it happen. If Connie Echols can resurrect the Wagon Wheel Motel from near death, The Diamonds Restaurant can live on again. Alright McJerry, time to unearth that buried treasure full of money you have out there near PDTP. :)
Thanks everyone for reading along. I hope you liked my point of view and maybe it will inspire some of you to get out there and be apart of the revitalization of Route 66. All of the photos contained herein are property of myself, the photographer (lol I know... I am not a photographer). All rights reserved. Roamin' Rich Dinkela - Hooked On Route 66