Blush Boutique

We all have our go-to stores, the places where we know we’ll find something, even when we’re not even sure what we’re looking for.

 

Blush Boutique is one of these stores.

 

Whether I’m looking for a unique gift for someone, or seeking to update my wardrobe with the latest fashion trends, I always leave Blush Boutique with my mission accomplished.

 

blush center of store

Apparently I’m not the only fan of this affordable and hip destination; Blush has attained a solid 5-star rating on Facebook – an impressive feat, especially in the retail industry. This stellar rating reflects the quality of service provided by Julie and Bailey Bollin, the mother-daughter duo that opened their original store in March 2018, in Galena, Kansas.

 

blush bailey and julie

With their shared love of fashion, savvy buying skills, and strong social media presence, these women quickly attracted a strong following for the boutique.

 

blush general

In February 2019, the Bollin ladies relocated their store to downtown Joplin, joining these other locally owned women’s boutiques in offering the latest trends to area shoppers.

 

blush exterior

And if you can’t make it into Blush, you can still do some virtual shopping there. Just go to Blush’s Facebook or Instagram pages, find an item you can’t live without (which is easy to do), leave a comment with your size and contact info, and that item will be reserved for you.

 

blush wall display (1)

Blush carries a variety of brands, and the inventory is constantly changing, so it’s difficult to say which lines will be available at any given time. When I last visited, I saw clothes from brands like Umgee, She & Sky, and Hayden. Whether you’re looking for everyday wear like tees and jeans, or something for a special occasion, you’ll find it at Blush.

 

blush tees

blush jeans

There’s also a section of clothing for curvier figures, a nice find at a boutique.

 

blush curvy girl

No outfit is complete without accessories, and Blush carries an array of jewelry (including stackable Erimish bracelets), scarves, hats, and shoes to add the final touches to your look.

 

blush jewelry

blush shoes

In addition to clothing and accessories, you’ll also find a fun mix of lifestyle items, like home decor, bath products, candles, insulated Swig mugs, and collapsible Que mugs (great for traveling).

 

blush hutch

Oh, and Blush hasn’t forgotten about our four-legged friends, either. Even they need to accessorize.

 

So if you haven’t experienced Blush Boutique yet, head down to Main Street and check it out. I promise that you won’t leave this fashion destination empty-handed.

 

 

Blush Boutique is located at 420 South Main Street. Click here to visit its Facebook page, and click here to follow it on Instagram.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

*This post was updated on 3/28/19.

Women’s Boutiques in Joplin

Ladies, where was the last place you shopped for boutique clothes and accessories?

 

Was it in Kansas City? Northwest Arkansas? Tulsa?

 

Or was it right here in Joplin?

 

“What??” you may be thinking. “Joplin doesn’t have trendy boutiques like those you find in big cities!”

 

Well, actually we do.

 

In fact, we have several. 

 

Fun, fresh, and original, Joplin’s women’s boutiques offer fashionable merchandise for every budget.

 

So grab a friend and visit one of following trendsetting stores right here in town.

 

 The Boutiques

 

Blue Moon Boutique613 South Main Street

This “modern boutique with a vintage soul” carries trendy clothes, accessories, gifts and home decor. Even if you’re not in the mood to shop (but why wouldn’t you be?), at least take a stroll through the store to see the ever-changing whimsical displays featuring both new and cleverly repurposed items.

 

blue moon canopy

Favorite finds: Boho chic Urban Mango dresses and Good Work(s) Make a Difference leather wrap bracelets. 

 

Blush Boutique420 South Main Street

The racks and shelves at Blush Boutique are teeming with the freshest trends in clothing, accessories, and gifts. Owned by the mother-daughter duo of Julie and Bailey Bollin, Blush Boutique is an affordable and hip fashion destination.

blush tees

Favorite finds: Flowing tops by Umgee, and collapsible water bottles by Que.

 

Lennon’s Boutique, 2722 South Main Street, Suite B

If you’re looking for specialty brands like French Connection and Free People, as well as premium denim from brands like Citizens of Humanity, stop by Lennon’s Boutique. Owner Kirsten Anderson has worked in the northwest Arkansas retail market and is introducing popular and clothing and accessory lines from there to the Joplin market.

 

Favorite finds: Flirty Jeffrey Campbell booties and fun graphic tees from Chaser.

 

Pink Door Boutique1532 W. 32nd Street, First Floor

Would you ever think of going to a medical office building to buy some fashion accessories? Me, neither. But I stumbled across this store after a going to a doctor’s appointment in the building one day, and I’ve since returned to buy items for myself as well as gifts for friends.

 

Pink Door Boutique carries hard-to-find women’s health products, such as items for nursing or for post-mastectomy care (bras, wigs, hats, etc.). But beyond providing essential medical equipment, Pink Door Boutique strives to make its customers feel whole. This is why the store carries trendy shoes and accessories, as well as the Jane Iredale line of cosmetics.

 

boutiques pink hats

Favorite finds: Funky Shreds scarves and adorable shoes from Lindsay Phillips.

 

Sophie531 South Main Street

This “candy store for shoe addicts” has been sustaining my sweet tooth since its opening in 2007. In fact 80% of the footwear in my closet has been purchased here. With brands like Volatile, Naughty Monkey, and Chinese Laundry, Sophie offers the latest footwear fashions at affordable prices.

 

sophie shoes

But Sophie is more than just shoes. In fact, with a wide selection of handbags and accessories plus a boutique clothing section, the store offers everything you need to create an outfit from head to toe.

 

sophie clothing

Favorite finds: Black wedge pumps from Restricted (my favorite pair of shoes – so comfy!) and the roomy hobo handbags from SR Squared.

 

So, did you get some ideas from this list?

 

I know I did. Perhaps one too many…

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

*Updated 3/28/19

Unique Shops in Joplin

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I love stumbling across new places to see and things to do in the Joplin area.

 

And I get especially excited when I discover new local businesses.

 

Why?

 

First of all, local businesses usually provide a high level of customer service. The owners of these businesses are often visible and accessible, and make an effort to get to know their customers.

 

Second of all, these mom-and-pop shops often sell items that are made in the Joplin area. It’s mind-blowing to me to see the things produced by our neighbors and friends here in our community. This town has some pretty big talent!

 

Beautify Your Nest 

 

Sandstone Gardens2826 Douglas Fir Road

Drivers on I-44 get an unexpected surprise just west of Joplin when they spot the massive European-inspired estate that houses Sandstone Gardens.

 

The interior of this  impressive 50,000 square-foot building contains a wide selection of furniture, home decor, seasonal decor, candles, and boutique accessories, as well as the Bistro restaurant (the desserts there are amazing!).

 

unique sandstone

But the most unique items at Sandstone Gardens are the cast-stone home and garden pieces that are displayed throughout the showroom and the gardens outside.

 

People come from near and far to buy these timeless pieces. I’ve purchased several myself, including flower pots, a bird bath, a garden bench, and some floral arrangements set in cast-stone urns. 

 

Urban Art Gallery511 South Main Street

From photographs to ceramics to jewelry, this gallery features pieces made by local artists, making it a great place to look if you’re shopping for a unique gift.

 

first-thursday-linda-teeterLinda Teeter’s Photography

 

One of my favorite artists sells her work here at Urban Art Gallery. She’s Kristin Girard, the jewelry artist/scientist behind Kristin’s Laboratory

 

 

Attention, Ladies!

Forget driving to a big city to shop for the latest styles of clothing! In fact, Joplin has so many hip and original women’s boutiques that I had to make a post just for them, which you can read right here.

 

blue moon moon starIn addition to selling women’s clothing and accessories, Blue Moon Boutique also sells unique home decor and gift items. Now that’s one-stop shopping!

 

 

Fill Your Belly

 

Candy House Gourmet510 Kentucky Avenue

I fell in love with this place the very first time I visited Joplin, and I’ve been a devoted customer now for twenty years. This handcrafted chocolate is made at the Chocolate Factory downtown, and you can even tour the facility to watch the process in action.

 

Candy House Case

Try a sample of the sea salt caramels (my favorite), the English toffee, the fudge, or anything else – it’s all good. Candy House also sells a variety of sugar-free chocolates, as well as pre-packaged candy assortments that make great gifts.

 

 

Joplin Empire Market, 931 E. 4th Street

For a true slice of the Four State Area, visit the Joplin Empire Market. Open year-round on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., this market features vendors from a 150-mile radius selling produce, meats, eggs, local products, crafts, and art.

 

joplin-empire-interior

 

Get Active

 

Runaround Running & Lifestyle Co., 422 Main Street

You don’t have to be a runner to benefit from a visit to this store. In fact, more than 50% of the store’s business comes from people who are on their feet all day. But all of these customers have one thing in common: they are seeking the perfect fit.

 

To find it, Runaround uses a computerized system which provides information (high arch, low arch, etc.) that allows the staff to find the optimal shoe for each customer.

 

unique runaround

With a wide selection of performance-related shoes, apparel, and gear, as well as its excellent customer service, it’s easy to see why Runaround earned a place in Competitor magazine’s “50 Best Running Stores in America 2013.” Ranked along with running stores located in big cities across the nation, that’s quite an honor for a Joplin business.

 

We’ve got some great local shops in this town, run by talented people who are passionate about what they do.

 

Take some time to visit these gems and see for yourself.

 

You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Lennon’s Boutique

Citizens of Humanity, Cupcakes and Cashmere, and French Connection – these are some of the specialty brands that Kirsten Anderson became familiar with while working Masons, a popular boutique in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  When she realized that there weren’t any stores in Joplin carrying brands like these, she decided to make it her mission to bring them here by opening up her own shop.

 

Carla and Kirsten

 

With her buying experience and fashion savvy, along with the help of her parents Tony and Carla, Kirsten opened Lennon’s Boutique in August 2018, and began introducing the latest trends from premium clothing brands to shoppers on Joplin’s Main Street.

 

The shop’s interior is sleek and modern, punctuated with flirty touches, like fluffy flokati-covered benches in soft creams and pinks. But the first thing I noticed was the large portrait of Beatles’ singer John Lennon giving the peace sign.

 

It was at that very moment when I also realized that there was a John Lennon song emanating from the speakers.

 

Someone must be a huge fan.

 

That someone is Carla, Kirsten’s mom. She’d always liked John Lennon and even hoped Kirsten would choose his name for a baby someday. Kirsten did, in a way. She used it to name her retail baby, Lennon’s Boutique. (Smart move, Kirsten – you made your mom happy and now the pressure’s off!)

 

Walking through Lennon’s is like flipping through the pages of Vogue magazine (or scrolling through its Instagram equivalent), with high-fashion brands like Cupcakes and Cashmere (a line by fashion blogger Emily Schumer), the Bohemian brand Free People, French Connection, Lavender Brown, and others.

 

You’ll find chic dress and skirt options for a night out, as well as comfy tees for lounging around, like this one by Chaser.

 

Agolde and Citizens of Humanity are two of the premium denim lines sold at Lennon’s.

 

Lennon’s shoe nook boasts an impressive collection of footwear from Sam Edelman, Dolce Vita, Jeffrey Campbell, Chinese Laundry, and more.

 

No outfit is complete without accessories, and Lennon’s offers ABLE handbags and jewelry to help you add that final touch.

 

ABLE is a company whose mission it is to empower women in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Peru to learn skills, like making jewelry and leather goods, which enable them to earn money and end the cycle of poverty in their communities.

 

And no trip to Lennon’s is complete without saying hi to Bella, the shop dog.

 

She even has her portrait hanging on the wall, painted by Arkansas-based Soulsby Art (who also did the John Lennon painting).

 

Seeing Bella’s sweet face will bring a smile to yours – that’s a treasure you’ll find exclusively at Lennon’s.

 

Lennon’s Boutique is located at 2722 South Main Street, Suite B. Click here to visit its Facebook page.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Social BTB

It’s Friday night, and the first floor of Joplin’s historic Gryphon building is buzzing with activity. Groups of friends and families gather at tables and booths, catching up on each other’s day over a shared meal.

 

This concept, this idea of a gathering place, is a simple one. But it works.

 

social btb gryphon

This gathering place is called Social BTB. Although I consistently – and mistakenly – call it Social TBT (because I’ve been so deeply programmed by Throwback Thursday posts on social media), the BTB here standing for Burgers, Tenders, and Beer, the three things that this restaurant specializes in. Just like the concept, the menu is also simple. And it works.

 

social btb logo

It works because the wizard behind Social BTB is none other than successful local restaurateur George Michalopoulos. George introduced Joplin to his Mediterranean-inspired recipes when he opened Mythos in 2004, a restaurant which continues to be a favorite among local diners as well as visitors.  When I heard that George was opening a new restaurant, I knew I had to try it, and I knew it would be good.

 

And it was.

 

 

Ordering

The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Social BTB is the menu counter. Actually, you’ll probably zero in on your favorite sports teams playing on one of the 16 flat screen TVs hanging in the restaurant, but walk past those and proceed to the menu counter to place your food order. I promise there will be time to watch the games once you’re seated.

 

social btb menu

The menu features burgers, chicken tenders, salads, and sandwiches (including vegetarian options like the Grilled Cheese, and the Veggie, a black bean chipotle patty. There aren’t a gazillion choices on the menu, and that’s refreshing. Again, simple is what works here.

 

social btb interior

Once you place your food and soft drink order, you’ll get a number to take with you to a table or booth of your choice in the dining room. At your booth or table, you’ll notice this magical button.

 

social btb buzz bar

If you’d like something stronger than a soft drink, all you do is press this button, and someone will appear at your table to take your order.

 

In addition to a fully stocked bar, Social BTB offers over 30 types of bottled beers and over a dozen beers on tap.

 

social btb beer

I opted for this refreshing Hefeweizen from KC while my husband Travis chose a draft beer.

 

 

The Food

Sticking with the BTB theme, Travis ordered a burger and I ordered tenders. We also ordered the house-made Onion Strings. I could have eaten those tasty seasoned strings all by themselves!

 

The Onion Strings arrived with Travis’ dinner. He’d also ordered a side of House Fries with his burger (which he’d customized to his liking). The beef patties here are fresh, not frozen, which makes for juicy burgers.

 

social btb burger

I ordered the BTB (3pc) Plate (you can also choose a 4- or a 5-piece plate), which comes with hand-breaded tenders, garlic house toast, and one dipping sauce.

 

social btb tenders meal

Because I like to try different flavors, I added two more sauces for a small charge, which allowed me to sample the Bleu cheese, garlic Parmesan, and BTB house (a sweet-and-sour Polynesian-type sauce). There are about five more sauces that I want to try the next time I order tenders here.

 

Let me take a moment and focus on the tenders.

 

social btb tenders

These babies are huge and plump and perfectly seasoned. They filled me up so much that I only had room to try a couple of the yummy Sweet Potato Fries I’d ordered as a side before boxing them up to bring home. (Social BTB also offers Salt & Vinegar Fries, which I want to try next time).

 

 

The Gathering Place

After eating, Travis and I walked around to see the rest of Social BTB, which is more like a complex than a restaurant. In addition to the dining room, where we’d eaten, there’s also a bar…

 

social btb bar

…and a couch lounge.

 

social btb lounge 1

 

social btb lounge 2

The couch lounge is a great place to watch football games with friends. Visit on Wristband Sunday when you can buy a wristband for $3, choose a team, and every time that team scores, you get a free bar favor.

 

Throughout Social TBT, you’ll find murals of animals with cheeky sayings painted above them. For example, take this animal exchange (which reminds me of the Chick-fil-A cow/chicken rivalry):

 

social btb cow

 

social btb chicken

Another feature that Social TBT offers is outdoor seating.

 

social btb outdoor view

I love eating outdoors whenever possible, and I’m always searching for restaurants that have this option.

 

social btb outdoor seating

Not only can you eat outside, but you can also play games! Spend a balmy summer night hanging out on the patio with friends or family (or both) while playing corn hole, jumbo Jenga, jumbo cup pong, or outdoor bowling.

 

social btb corn hole

Afterwards, treat yourself to some ice cream at Caroline’s, located just down the hall from Social BTB, on the Main Street side of the Gryphon Building.

 

Open seven days a week, Social BTB offers good food, plentiful drinks, and a casual space where people of all ages can gather together to socialize.

 

 

Social BTB is located at 1027 South Main Street, inside the Gryphon Building. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival

This is the poster child of festivals.

 

This thought came to my mind after being at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival for a mere ten minutes on a picture-perfect September afternoon. This festival had it all: live music, a variety of food, arts and crafts vendors, community organization booths, a car show, and kids activities, all nestled in the shade provided by the sprawling limbs of the trees in beautiful Center Creek Park. Plus, the event organization was seamless, with volunteers directing traffic, driving shuttles, and providing information to attendees.

 

True, the organizers of the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival have had a little time to refine the details of this event – like over 20 years – and the festival, which is held the fourth weekend of September every year, now brings more than 15,000 people to the southwest Missouri town of Carl Junction.

 

bluegrass festival overview

Historically, this has been a Saturday-only event, but in 2018, two more days of activities were added to the festival. On Friday night, the Indoor Bluegrass Jamboree was held at Carl Junction’s Stark Auditorium, featuring three bluegrass bands. On Sunday, Pick’n & Picnic’n in the Park (I dare you to say that three times fast!) invited families to eat a picnic lunch in Center Creek Park while listening to the music of the Picker’s Post Band.

 

I visited the festival on Saturday, when it was held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Center Creek Park. I arrived in the early afternoon, and it was pretty crowded. But Center Creek Park is large, allowing ample room for both people and cars, and I didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. Shuttles were available for those who parked in the free parking areas; there was also a $5 VIP parking option for those who wanted to park near the entrance. But even though I parked in the free parking area, I still didn’t have to walk far before I was immersed in the sights and sounds of the festival.

 

 

Music

Each year, the festival organizers invite visitors to bring their own lawn chairs to relax in while they listen to the stars of the festival: the bluegrass musicians. To me, bluegrass brings to mind banjos, fiddles, and mandolins, but have you ever really wondered where this music came from? Well, I did. So I did some research.

 

According to the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, bluegrass has its roots in the songs about country life that were sung by those who migrated to America from Ireland, Scotland, and England and settled in rural areas in the Appalachian region. In the early part of the 20th century, the classic bluegrass style as we now know it was formed, blending country, jazz, Celtic, rock, and gospel music styles.

 

And now you know.

 

Well maybe you knew all of this before, but at least now I know.

 

Back to the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. The music began flowing from the stage at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and there was a sea of people kicking back in their lawn chairs enjoying the lively music of bands like No Apparent Reason, Berry Wynn & The Fly by Night Band, and That Dalton Gang, who was playing when I took this photo.

 

bluegrass festival band

 

 

Food

What makes listening to live music even better? Why, food, of course! The Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival had a wide array of dining options to choose from including: Ghetto Tacos, Clark’s Cuisine (barbecue), King’s Kettle Korn, and more.

 

 

bluegrass festival fred and reds

Fred & Red’s (spaghetti red and Frito pie)

 

bluegrass festival kona ice

Kona Ice

 

 

Vendors

When I reached the last food truck, I discovered an additional area filled with arts and crafts tents and community organization information.

 

bluegrass festival vendors

Then I realized it led to another vendor area, and then another. This festival was bigger than I’d expected!

 

Here are some of the vendors that were at the festival:

 

bluegrass festival everything crocheted

Everything Crochet by Lori

 

bluegrass festival plaid anvil

The Plaid Anvil (embellished/bleached plaids and leather goods)

 

bluegrass festival kimberlys jellies

Kimberly’s Jellies & Jams (a variety of jelly and jam flavors, including Mountain Dew and Coke, and avocado jalapeno, which I bought)

 

bluegrass festival bjs creations

BJS Creations (jewelry, baby bibs)

 

 

bluegrass festival kimbriel goods

Kimbriel Custom Crafts (handmade pens, razors, and holiday ornaments)

 

bluegrass festival surplus usa2

Surplus USA (metal art)

 

 

 

Car and Bike Show

I continued to walk through park, the energetic notes of bluegrass carrying me along the way. I came to the Car and Bike Show area, where rows of vehicles from different eras gave glimpses into times gone by.

 

bluegrass festival car show

Judging for the show started at noon, and trophies were given out at 2 p.m. This beauty was one of my favorites.

 

bluegrass festival red car

 

Kids’ Activities

Even the little ones had an area dedicated to them at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. Bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, and an art project kept them occupied.

 

bluegrass festival kids area

But if they needed a break from all of the stimulation, they just had to take a few steps to the quiet banks of Center Creek, where they could dip their toes in the sparkling water or search for wildlife.

 

bluegrass festival center creek

With its idyllic setting, and family-friendly, alcohol-free environment, filled with music, food, and arts and crafts, it’s easy to see why the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival attracts so many people to this neck of the woods each September.

 

 

For more information on the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Joplin Empire Market

It’s Friday night, and I pull my minivan up to the ATM. I’m as fired up as a high schooler getting cash before heading out on a big date. I do have a date of sorts – with my daughter. The following morning we are going to Joplin Empire Market.

 

Yes, I’m fired up about a market. But this isn’t just a place to pick up a few produce items; Joplin Empire Market is a weekly event that showcases local products and local talent, and fosters a sense of connection in our community.

 

joplin empire interior

I know that I will see some vendors whose storefront businesses I’ve visited and written about before, and I’ll also discover new vendors, as they rotate each week at the market. I know I’ll also get to visit with the ever-present market coordinator Ivy Hagedorn, as well as Lori Haun, Executive Director of Downtown Joplin Alliance, an organization created to foster the revitalization in the heart of our city. Joplin Empire Market is the result of this organization’s latest effort to do just that – and it’s off to a great start in its debut season.

 

 

Where It’s At

When you see the oversized yellow rocking chair on 4th Street, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

 

joplin empire market chair1

Housed in a 1907 building that was donated to Downtown Joplin Alliance by Empire District Electric Company, this enclosed, year-round market features vendors from a 150-mile radius selling produce, meats, eggs, local products, crafts, and art. There’s a huge parking lot on the east side of the building, so you always know that you’ll find a spot nearby.

 

The market’s open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Can I just take a second here to say how much I love these hours? I can still sleep in and get my market fix.

 

joplin empire market outsideA market report is posted on Joplin Empire Market’s Facebook page each week listing the vendors that will be attending that Saturday, which I find  helpful for formulating a game plan before I hit the market. To follow the market’s Facebook page, click here. If you want an overview of the market experience, keep on reading.

 

 

Plants and Produce

When I see the variety of plants and produce offered at the market, I often think, “They grew that around here?” I tried growing a garden one year and it yielded just one cucumber and a handful of strawberries, so I have a great respect for those who cultivate gardens which produce bountifully, like Green’s Greenhouse & Garden, Our Little Piece of Heaven, OakWoods Farm, Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, and Robertson Family Farm (you can also visit this farm to pick your own blueberries during the season; click here to read more about it).

 

joplin empire oakwoodsjoplin empire joplin greenhouse

If you’re hankering for seasonal items like berries and tomatoes, make sure to arrive at the opening of the market, as they sell out quickly.

 

 

Meat, Eggs, and Baked Goods

If you’re a conscientious carnivore, you can buy eggs, pork, and grass-fed beef at Black Cat Barnyard, “a family farm that focuses on raising pastured animals that lead happy lives.” Fleetwood Farmette also sells eggs as well as baked goods, including cheesy bread and sweet bread.

 

On my first trip to the market, I arrived around 11 a.m. and Marty Yates, the Bearded Baker, was standing behind his empty booth, since all of his artisan bread loaves were already sold out. So the following week, I got to the market earlier and was able to snag one of his Nonie loaves, which we ate with dinner that night. Who am I kidding? After eating half of that dense and hearty loaf myself, that bread was my dinner that night!

 

joplin empire bearded

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, check out the artisan cookies at All Mixed Up Bakery. For people who enjoy sweets but have special dietary needs, stop by Sugar Creek Bakery, which offers sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods.

 

joplin empire all mixed up

This fishie from All Mixed up Bakery is too cute to eat!

 

 

Unique Area Products

Finding local items that I can gift to my out-of-town friends and family is one way that I like to introduce people to life in the Ozarks, and there are several vendors at Joplin Empire Market that help me out in this endeavor. On a recent trip to visit my parents in Chicago, I brought them a bottle of Savory Sauce (great for marinades and salads), and a shaker of salt from SmokeLicked Salts (hardwood-smoked Atlantic sea salt sold in a variety of flavors – I’m obsessed with the Adobo, which is now a staple in my kitchen).

 

joplin empire savory

The ladies behind Savory Sauce – literally and figuratively 😉

joplin empire salt

Other great local food products include honey from Robertson Family Farm (the blueberry people), and no-sugar-added fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette. My daughter loves to eat these and I’m feel good about giving them to her because they’re wholesome snacks.

 

joplin empire robertson

Local honey from Robertson Family Farm

joplin empire fleetwood

Fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette

Handmade local products make fun gifts, too. If there’s a man in your life with a beard, Artisan Beardworks can help him keep it neatly groomed with their selection of balm, oil, beard wash, and combs. They also sell boxed sets, which makes gift-giving easy.

 

joplin empire bearded product

 

Artisan Creations

There are vendors at Joplin Empire Market that create unique, non-consumable products, too. These artisans and craftspeople bring an added layer to the market’s offerings. Let’s start with Martha Goldman. In addition selling her art at the market, Martha is also the creative force behind the market’s mural, which was inspired by Joplin’s natural beauty: the bluffs near Shoal Creek, the wondrous (and now-closed) Crystal Cave, wild blackberries, coneflowers, purple-tailed skinks.

 

joplin empire mural

There’s also Stone House Merchant, selling jewelry made from crystals, beads, and rocks, like these stunning wire-wrapped stones featuring the tree of life.

 

joplin empire stone house

The Market Artisans is a group of five woman who rotate selling their goods (jewelry, textiles, pottery, etc.) at the market. One member of this group, Kristin Girard, is a jewelry artist whose work I’ve been a fan of for years, and you can read more about her here.

 

joplin empire market artisans

Fairy Gardens at The Market Artisans booth

 

You can bring home a piece of yesteryear from White Buffalo Sign Company, which creates high resolution scans of original vintage Joplin signs, then applies them to 24-gauge metal.

 

joplin empire white buffalo (1)

 

Market Dining

You don’t have to wait until you bring your edible goodies home from Joplin Empire Market before you indulge. The market features a different food truck each week. Past vendors include The Sweet Truck (gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches), Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse (pizza), Cochinita Mexican Street Food (their Mexican corn is a must-try), and Take a Stand (featuring smoothies and fresh-pressed juices).

 

If you need a little lift to power through your Saturday, grab a cup of joe from the market’s coffee vendor (Bearded Lady Roasters and Cottage Small Coffee Roasters have been at the market).

 

 

Music and Special Events

The market is more than just a place to buy local produce and goods; it’s a place to connect with the community and to cultivate your own creativity. With live music playing in the background, it’s easy to find inspiration while crafting your own piece of art at special events like Markers at the Market.

 

joplin empire music

My daughter was thrilled when WellSpring Acres brought their sweet alpacas to the market for people to meet.

 

joplin empire wellspring alpaca

Not only was it fun to pet the alpacas, but when we went inside the to the farm’s booth, we found it interesting to see all of the products made from the alpacas’ wool.

 

joplin empire wellspring

Wool dryer balls make an environmentally friendly alternative to paper sheets.

 

The lively, dynamic atmosphere at Joplin Empire Market energizes me each time I go. I leave there not only with bags filled with locally produced items, but with a sense of connection to my community, a community that continues to grow and thrive.

 

 

Ways to Pay for Your Goodies

In addition to good, old-fashioned cash, the market accepts other forms of payment:

 

Debit tokens. If plastic is the only thing you’re carrying in your wallet, you can purchase with your credit card to use at any vendor booth at the market. Vendors can give you cash back, too, so you won’t be stuck with unused tokens.

 

joplin empire market tokens

SNAP/EBT. The market now accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows those who qualify to have access to fresh, local fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, and dairy products – basically any food at the market that’s not intended for consumption on site.

 

joplin empire market double bucks

Plus, the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of tokens that recipients spend on fruits and vegetables at the market.

 

 

Market info: The market is open year-round on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is located at 931 E. 4th Street. Click here to find the weekly market reports on Facebook, and click here to visit the market’s website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Wilder’s Steakhouse

I begin to relax as I press my back into the solid wooden booth seat, enjoying the privacy provided by the booth’s towering heights and the restaurant’s dim lighting. From my clandestine spot, I can see a portion of the long, inviting bar, well-stocked with neat rows of alcohol bottles waiting to be mixed into classic cocktails like Sidecars or Singapore Slings.

 

wilders bar

 

The atmosphere reminds me of the kind of cool and sophisticated place where members of the Rat Pack once frequented. I picture them sitting at one of the tables up front, surrounded by friends for a night of celebration, or, conversely, ducking into one of the high-backed booths to enjoy a meal without the constant attention of adoring fans. As I sip the last drop of my martini, I swear I see Ol’ Blue Eyes himself appear in front of me.

 

wilders blue eyes

 

I snap to and realize that it’s actually my Blue Eyes, my husband Travis. This place has a way of tricking the mind, of making you think that you’ve traveled back in time to the golden age of restaurants, when dining out was more than just grabbing a quick bite to eat: it was an event.

 

This time-frozen place is Wilder’s Steakhouse, a casual, fine-dining establishment that has served diners in Joplin since 1929. Located on Main Street in the downtown district, Wilder’s continues its decades-old tradition of offering some of the best steaks in town. These days that includes hand-cut, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free cuts of Black Angus beef.

 

So, when Travis and I were recently craving some steak, we pointed the car toward Wilder’s. Street parking is available in front, but we opted to park in the lot behind the building. Entering through the rear brought us through a hallway peppered with vintage ads and menus, serving as a time tunnel connecting us from the modern world outside to the restaurant’s classic interior.

 

wilders vintage sign wall

wilders vintage sign

wilders vintage menu

 

After settling in with some cocktails, we ordered appetizers: Shrimp Cocktail for Travis (served with four plump jumbo shrimp),

 

wilders shrimp

 

and The Wilder’s Wedge for me because I wanted a crisp, fresh salad to balance out the upcoming hearty meal.

 

wilders wedge

But with an ample amount of lettuce, locally grown tomatoes, smoked Applewood bacon, and house-made bleu cheese dressing, I could have eaten The Wilder’s Wedge as a meal by itself.Through sheer will, I forced myself to stop so I could leave room for my entree.

 

Although Wilder’s is a steakhouse, the menu here is not limited to steak; you’ll find entrees to suit any appetite, such as Chilean Sea Bass, Pesto Roast Chicken, and Vegetarian Sauté. But that night we had come for the steak. Each steak entree comes with the choice of one side. Travis ordered Wilder’s Mignons: two juicy tenderloin medallions topped with rich Asiago cream sauce and some more of that tasty crumbled Applewood bacon, with a side of tender grilled asparagus.

 

wilders mignons

wilders asparagus

I ordered the fancy-sounding Filet Dupont, a melt-in-your-mouth, six-ounce center cut tenderloin topped with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere –  flavors which complemented one another nicely.

 

wilders filet du pont

 

For my side, I ordered something based on the recommendation of my friends: Wilder’s Signature Truffled Macaroni & Cheese. I’m not a big mac-and-cheese fan, so I thought I’d just have a taste and bring the rest home to my kids. Well, the kids never even saw it because I ate every bite (except the one I let Travis taste).

 

wilders mac and cheese

This wasn’t your typical powdered Kraft mac-and-cheese; the pasta here was tossed with earthy truffle oil and topped with real cheese. This dish totally broadened my view of mac-and-cheese: it can be a gourmet item.

 

As we were settling up the bill, our server asked us if we’d seen the recently restored Wilder’s sign on top of the building. Installed in 1950, the neon hadn’t worked for the past 20 years, which was the length of time that I’ve lived in Joplin, so I’d never had the chance to see it illuminated. Naturally, I had to check it out.

 

wilders restored sign

All the sign’s arrows ARE working. I just happened to catch this one mid-flash.

 

While this street-level picture doesn’t do it justice (a drone would’ve captured a more impressive photo), seeing the kitschy sign with its flashing neon-orange arrows pointing to the Wilder’s name made me feel, once again, that I’d stepped back to a time when dining out wasn’t just a convenience, but a special occasion.

 

Wilder’s Steakhouse is located at 1216 South Main Street. To visit its website, click here, and to follow Wilder’s on Facebook, click here.

 

To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Caroline’s

Pirate’s Plunder.

 

Superman.

 

Tizzy Lizzy.

 

These sound like names of amusement park rides that would make your belly flop.

 

But last week, these names carried a different meaning for us. These are the names of ice creams and sweet treats at Caroline’s, and they made our bellies full, not flop.

 

My daughters and I kicked off the first week of summer break by engaging in our yearly ritual of celebrating the no-school season by going out for ice cream. This year, my girls picked Caroline’s, an ice cream, candy, and coffee shop in Joplin’s downtown district.

 

sweet carolines facade2

Located on the main floor of the historic Gryphon building, this ice cream parlor opened in June 2014. Owner Michael Joseph named it after his daughter, Caroline (the shop was initially called Sweet Caroline’s but is now simply Caroline’s – although it is still sweet).

 

sweet carolines counter1

The focus of Caroline’s is to offer an old-fashioned parlor experience, and to do so they serve Ice Cream Club ice cream, a premium parlor ice cream from Florida. There are 32 Ice Cream Club flavors that rotate at Caroline’s.

 

My youngest daughter was immediately attracted to the vibrant red, yellow, and blue flavor called Superman (which actually has a vanilla flavor).

 

sweet carolines superman1

While I was busy ordering for my other girls, she went to town on her cone, and the next time I saw her she looked like this.

 

sweet carolines superman2

My oldest daughter created an eclectic combination of triple-rich Captain’s Chocolate and Rainbow Sherbet, which is swirled with fruity orange, raspberry, and lime flavors.

 

sweet carolines choc sherbet

My middle daughter – the chocolate addict of the bunch – chose a scoop of Pirate’s Plunder, a chocolate ice cream with chocolate-covered pecans and mini caramel cups swirled together with thick caramel. She topped that off with a scoop of Stellar Coffee (the only kind of coffee I allow her to have), which is a coffee ice cream that contains mini dark chocolate-covered coffee cups and a rich fudge.

 

sweet carolines plunder coffee

I didn’t hear from her for quite a while as she worked her way through her iced confectionery tower. Meanwhile, I ordered an espresso to give me the energy to keep up with my kids (and their impending sugar highs) for the rest of the day.

 

Caroline’s serves Onyx Coffee, a gourmet roaster located in northwest Arkansas.

 

carolines onyx

The 3 bags on the left have black Onyx logos on them, which apparently don’t photograph well…

 

If you like adding milk to your coffee, Caroline’s offers a variety of options; traditional dairy products like milk, half-and-half, and heavy whipping cream; coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk.

 

While my espresso was brewing, I browsed through the candy case to find some treats to bring home to my husband (I’m kidding – they were for my private stash). I chose a dark chocolate sea salt caramel, a RumChata truffle, Kahlua truffle, and some candy bark called Tizzy Lizzy.

 

sweet carolines chocolate

If chocolate isn’t your thing (well, I guess we can’t be friends, then), there are many other types of candy to choose from, like fudge…

…gummies…

 

…Jelly Belly candies…

 

…and a variety of confections that you can mix and match.

 

And if sugar isn’t your thing because of dietary restrictions, no worries. Caroline’s has something for you, too.

 

carolines keto

Each week, local baker Desserts First supplies the shop with a variety of keto-friendly treats that taste so good, you’ll feel like you’re eating the real sugar-and-carb-loaded things. Do yourself a favor and try the lemon cupcake – your taste buds will be wowed.

 

sweet carolines painting

Caroline’s also offers birthday parties in the shop, and provides off-site catering. Plus, it’s open daily, so my ice cream, coffee, chocolate, and candy cravings can be satisfied seven days a week.

 

Sweet.

 

 

Caroline’s is located at 1027 South Main Street in downtown Joplin. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

I Am Joplin: George Michalopoulos

Noble columns and graceful stone statues resembling ancient Greek deities create elegant touches to the exterior of this building. Its appearance is unexpected – an oasis of stateliness in a sea of homogeneous commercial buildings.

 

george mythos 1

 

But while it may look like a palace, to one Joplin man, it’s simply home.

 

This home is Mythos, and its owner is George Michalopoulos, a man with boundless energy who spends the majority of his day at this restaurant. While he does have an actual house, along with a wife and two children, to go to at the end of the day, his passion for – and dedication to – his business has expanded his clan, creating a family of employees and customers who find comfort, celebration, and community within the walls of Mythos.

 

George-in-Training

Being a restaurateur is a far cry from George’s youthful dream of being an anesthesiologist, but the restaurant business is in his blood. His parents, Andrew and Vickie Michalopoulos, came from Greece to Missouri in the 1970s, and opened up restaurants. Eventually, they branched out into the full-service hotel industry and purchased the Ramada Inn (now LaQuinta Inn) in Joplin, where George oversaw the restaurant, bar, and guest rooms.

 

When it came time for George’s parents to sell the hotel, he had to figure out what he wanted to do next. With anesthesiology now off the table, he decided to honor his roots and his genuine enthusiasm for the restaurant industry by opening his own establishment. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m extremely glad that he did.

 

George the Restaurateur

George opened Mythos in 2004 with the help of his wife Jaime, who also hails from a family of restaurateurs. But while everyone else in George’s family had operated steak houses and buffet restaurants, George and Jaime wanted to do something different, something upscale. Something Greek.

 

Over the years, the menu has evolved. Although it remains Greek-influenced with items like the Tour of Mythos (a sample platter of traditional Greek food including gyro meat, pita slices, and spanakopita – which is one of my favorite dishes here), the menu also includes other fare such as steaks (like the Blackberry Filet) and seafood (like the Vermouth Bass). “Joplin’s food tastes are growing,” says George. “The younger generation is seeing a lot more (TV) food shows and getting a lot more of a food education, which is allowing us to mature a lot more quickly than we used to.”

 

Plus, Mythos was using fresh ingredients before using locally sourced ingredients became trendy. “That’s a lot of the Mediterranean culture,” says George. “It was instilled in us as kids that you go to the garden to grab something fresh and it tastes so much better.”

 

george m

George at home, a.k.a. Mythos.

 

The scrumptious meals at Mythos are prepared by Chef Eugene Deal, who gets a special helper in the kitchen on Mondays. That’s when George dons his chef uniform and gets cooking. “It’s good for me to be in the kitchen because the employees see that, ‘Hey, this guy knows what he’s doing,’” says George. “I put orders in with them, I prep with them, I coach them, and I train them.” George believes that his presence in the kitchen has had a positive impact on the employee turnover rate at Mythos, which is low – a unique trait in the fickle restaurant industry. “I think it’s the fact that I’m in here working with them side-by-side, facing the same struggles that they face,” says George. “We’re problem-solving together.”

 

With his hands-on approach to managing the restaurant, it’s no surprise that he’s thrived as the sole owner/operator, despite the fact that he was only 30 when Mythos opened. Add in his incomparable customer recognition skills, which have earned the respect – and business – from customers over the years, and you have a solid recipe for success. He even recognizes people who come in once every year or two, much to their amazement. “I want to make sure that guests are happy and leave better than how they came in,” says George. “I try to make them feel at home.”

 

 

george mythos statue front

 

Practicing the Greek-influenced style of dining is another way that George and his employees make people feel at home at Mythos. “It’s not rushed. It’s very family-oriented. It’s sitting down. It’s talking. It’s enjoying. It’s not getting people in and out in 30 to 40 minutes, then getting the next table in.” While the servers do pick up the pace for the time-crunched lunch crowd, at dinner they move at the pace of the customers.

 

How was this leisurely European dining pace initially received by Joplin diners? “The first couple of years were an adjustment,” George admits. “Now people understand it. We had a table here last week with a 3:30 pm reservation and they were still here at 7 pm.”

 

George the Inventor

When George isn’t cooking or visiting with customers, he’s creating products and systems which make his business – and others in the industry – run more efficiently. Have you ever heard of the Dump Commander? (Go ahead and giggle like a 5th grader at the name – I did). Although it sounds funny, this product has had a serious impact on employees in the restaurant industry, winning the 2016 Kitchen Innovation Award at the National Restaurant Association.

 

What is the Dump Commander? George describes his invention as “a rechargeable unit that you take out to the dumpster, and instead of having to lift trash up over your head, you just hit a button and it dumps it for you.” You can read more about the Dump Commander here.

 

George the Dad

Being an inventor and restaurateur means long hours at Mythos, so George’s friends and family know that, in order to maximize their chances of seeing him, they should stop by the restaurant. Except in summer – that’s when Mythos closes for two weeks so that George can “devote 100%, 24/7” to his kids Andreas, 18, and Jasmine, 16, along with his wife Jaime.

 

George the Joplinite

After working in Joplin for more than two decades, George has come to appreciate living in this town, both for its “relaxed, lower pressure” lifestyle and for its family-friendly environment. “I like the fact that we know a lot of people even though it’s a fairly large-sized town.”

 

So where in Joplin does George take out-of-town visitors when they come to see him (besides Mythos, of course)? “I take our guests to a lot of the local restaurants,” says George. “When I worked in the hotel business, we would always direct guests to local restaurants because you can get a franchise anywhere in the country, but you pick the places that they don’t have in their hometowns and their cities. That way, they can experience something different and unique.”

 

George has been successful offering something different and unique at Mythos, and he does so with inexhaustible enthusiasm. “The time at the restaurant for me does not drag on,” says George. “I spend 12 to 16 hours a day here and I don’t feel like I’ve been here that long.” To George, Mythos isn’t just a workplace: “This is my home.”

 

Mythos is located at 1306 South Range Line Road. To visit its website here; to follow it on Facebook, click here; and if you’d like to read about my experience at Mythos, click here.

 

To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.