Monday, December 31, 2007


Phoenicia returns

The Phoenicia Restaurant at 1000 N. Sprigg St. is reborn. Emad Salamy, one of the Salamy Twins Inc., is bringing back the restaurant he ran successfully for years.

Salamy closed the restaurant and moved to Ottawa, Ontario, to be close to his family. Since closing the restaurant, he's leased it to a series of entrepreneurs, including one that used the restaurant's name but not its original recipes for Lebanese and Mediterranean foods. Salamy said he is seeking to sell the restaurant but will continue to operate it until he receives an acceptable offer.

Culver's opens

Culver's Butter Burgers and Frozen Custard has opened on South Kingshighway.

Barbara Geis, who along with her husband have moved to the area from Fon du Lac, Wis., said the restaurant is fully staffed, providing about 60 new jobs for the area.

The Cape Girardeau location is the couple's first foray into the franchise restaurant business. They trained to run the business by working for Culver's for three years in Wisconsin, and chose Cape Girardeau after scouting out the area as well as Carbondale, Ill., Paducah, Ky., and Quincy, Ill., as possible locations.

The whole process of finding the right city took about two months, Geis said.

"We chose Cape Girardeau because the people were really friendly and it felt like home," Geis told me this morning. "It felt good. We liked the city a lot and we had something we wanted to give to the city and we wanted to do it."

New barbecue place in Kennett

KENNETT, Mo. -- The Pig Pit barbecue restaurant has opened in Kennett. Milton and Tracy Atkinson are owners of the restaurant located off the South Bypass across from East Y Motors in Kennett.

New diner in Jackson

Jackson native Krissty Foster and her fiance, Bobby Steers, have taken over the old Skinny's Diner location at 3125 E. Jackson Blvd., given it a makeover and plan to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Foster said the restaurant, renamed the Jackson Diner, will offer homestyle food with a family atmosphere, including freshly made soups, an extensive breakfast menu and big portions.

The couple moved from southeast Michigan, where Steers operated four restaurants.

The menu is eight pages long. There will be daily specials and a Friday night all-you-can-eat fish fry, Foster said.


Clear skies for Big Sky Airlines

Bringing passenger air service back to Cape Girardeau was a trip "from a nightmare ... to a great reality," airport manager Bruce Loy said recently.

Loy made his remarks as part of a Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce event to herald the return of commercial passenger air service to the airport.

Flights were halted in March when the Tennessee-based RegionsAir was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration. That same month, Montana-based Big Sky Airlines won the right to provide flights from Cape Girardeau's airport. But shortages of planes and pilots delayed services.

Big Sky president Fred deLeeuw said the flights were a "long time in coming.

"We will put Cape Girardeau back on the map," he said. While none of the flights has sold out, each has six to eight passengers, which deLeeuw said was a good sign.


Dana Corp. building sale dependent on bond sale

The 150,000 square foot Dana Corp. plant on the south side of Cape Girardeau won't be vacant for long if the city council approves an economic development bond and tax abatement package to finance a move by Schaefer's Electrical Enclosures Inc. of Advance, Mo.

The proposal includes a plan for the city to authorize up to $5 million in bonds and a 50 percent property tax abatement for 10 years. The council has approved moving forward with the bond sale, but a final decision won't come until January.

Schaefer's Electrical's management has negotiated a $2.85 million price for the building, according to information supplied to the council, and plans to use the remainder of the bond issue to finance the purchase of additional equipment to expand operations.

The proposal has the support of Mayor Jay Knudtson, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer John Mehner and Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET executive director Mitch Robinson. The plan, they said, will keep a major industrial plant in use while providing the space for a major regional employer to expand its work force.

"They are at a point in their company's life cycle where they have to take the next step," Robinson said.

Dana Corp. filed bankruptcy in March 2006 in New York and announced plans to move production at the Cape Girardeau plant to Mexico last December. The terms of the building sale must be approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. While several potential buyers showed interest in the building, no competing proposals have been made to the court, said broker Tom Kelsey of Lorimont Place Ltd., who represented Dana in the negotiations. A decision from the judge should come within two weeks, he said.

"We were very pleased with the interest in that building, which speaks highly of Cape Girardeau, that facility and the quality of our workers," Kelsey said.

Dana plant manager Max Dunlap said that the last of the company's equipment will be removed from the plant sometime in January.

Schaefer's is a 21-year-old company started by Frank Schaefer in 1986. A group of investors led by John Tlapek of Cape Girardeau purchased Schaefer's in 1999.

It currently employs more than 100 people at its cramped 60,000 square foot facility in the Advance Industrial Park. Shortly after the move to Cape Girardeau, total employment would approach 150, company president Mark Diamond said.

The company has outgrown its current facility and the Dana building is ideal for continued growth, Diamond said. The current building has been expanded seven or eight times during the period since the current owners took over, he said.

"We looked at a facility in Marble Hill and we looked at a facility in Dexter," Diamond said. "When we looked at what was available and the price per square foot, the more we talked and looked at the dollar amounts, the more we came to the realization that from an investment standpoint it is a much better investment than building a new addition on to our factory here."

Due to the bankruptcy, Dana has not paid its property taxes for 2006 or 2007. It owes $104,421 in taxes and $16,210 in penalties, of which $77,131 is owed to the school district. Those taxes would be paid by Schaefer's Electrical as part of the purchase of the property, Mehner said.

"The back taxes that we hope to recover would be settled through the bankruptcy court," Mehner said. "At least the tax amounts would be recovered."

The move would also help Cape Girardeau avoid the loss of sales taxes on the utilities consumed at the Dana Building, Mehner noted.

The decision to look outside Advance for a new location was a difficult one, Diamond said. To ease the transition for its employees, most of whom live within five or 10 miles of the current factory, the company is developing plans to provide transportation so they can avoid the expense of driving the 54-mile daily round trip to Cape Girardeau, Diamond said.

Workforce Investment Board proposes move to new quarters

The Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri is negotiating a move from the historic Marquette Building on Broadway in Cape Girardeau to new quarters at the former Du'Shells Furniture building on William Street.

The move would provide better service to clients of the board and the affiliated organizations that would also move to the new location, said June O'Dell, president and chief operating officer.

The board's offices are part of the state government lease of most of the building to house various agencies ranging from Department of Social Services offices to the Division of Workforce Development. The move would have to be approved by the state agency that oversees building leases.

Along with the Workforce Investment Board, or WIB, the state Division of Workforce Development Career Center and the Metropolitan Employment & Rehabilitation Services/Missouri Goodwill Industries, or MERS/Goodwill, offices would also relocate. In all, the move would vacate more than 14,000 square feet in the historic downtown building, renovated a few years ago with state tax credits and home to several other state agencies.

The Marquette is on the market for $4.5 million. Prost Builders of Jefferson City is the current owner.

The Du'Shells building, 2103 William St., has been vacant since the furniture retailer went out of business last year. It is appraised at $1.5 million.

"The problem" with the Marquette "is if people come in to the Division of Workforce Development, and they need to see MERS, they have to go out to the street, around into the building through the restaurant to the elevator to go to the sixth floor," O'Dell said after a meeting of the WIB board of directors. "This is not customer-friendly. We are supposed to be a one-stop shop with integrated services."

Other issues with the downtown location include a lack of parking, especially handicapped parking, that is easily accessible by clients visiting the building, O'Dell said.

Bill Whitlow of Prost Builders, owner of the Marquette, said both the WIB and the Career Center space are included in the state lease of 30,844 square feet of the building. That lease, which must be renewed each year, expires in 2014. The state pays $316,000 a year to lease the space.

The MERS/Goodwill offices are leased separately, Whitlow said, and for a shorter term.

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